You Drank Your Water – Postcard Campaign by North West Network Against Fracking
The government has said that there will be no fracking until the next EPA study is completed, not until at least 2014. However, the last EPA report was produced by Aberdeen University, which has strong ties to the fossil fuel industry. How do we know that the new study will not be compromised?
The people are not reassured by the government’s promises. The Irish anti-fracking campaign will go on and is getting stronger every day.
Campaigners have produced a postcard that highlights the greatest problem with shale gas extraction – the irreversible pollution to our water. Can Ireland afford to contaminate its most precious resource, the source of our agriculture industry, and the source of all life?
Add your voice to your neighbours’! Call on our elected representatives and civil servants to respect the wishes of the Irish people and ban fracking.
You can download the photo here: http://frackingfreeireland.org/info-to-download/postcards/
Are some Americans being poisoned from food contamination of a heavily used herbicide?
A recent peer-reviewed study of the herbicide Roundup appearing in the scientific journal Entropy indicates that this may be so.
The chemical in question is glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The study reveals that measurable amounts of glyphosate have been found in food sold to the public. And, according to the study, this chemical has serious detrimental effects to the human body.
Serious Side Effects
“Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body,” say study authors Stephanie Seneff, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel.
According to the study, Glyphosate impairs the CYP (Cytochrome P450) pathway, a gene pathway vital to forming and breaking down molecules in cells, as well as enzyme functions that regulate some hormones and blood pressure. The abstract of the study states serious side effects: “Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Roundup works in conjunction with is Monsanto’s biotech crops, which are genetically engineered to be immune to the herbicide. Roundup is used on millions of acres of food crops, which include corn, sugarbeets, and canola.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, glyphosate is the most popular herbicide in the country. It is widely used in lawn care, gardens, and golf courses all over the country.
Monsanto Refutes the Science
Monsanto denies all of these claims, and insists its product is safe. Monsanto’s Executive Vice President of Sustainability says “We are very confident in the long track record that glyphosate has. It has been very, very extensively studied.”
Review Not Coming Until 2015
As far as oversight is concerned, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is continuing a standard review of glyphosate, and will determine whether use of said chemical should be restricted…in 2015.
The Huffington Post, Entropy Abstract, Medical Daily
Nick Flores is an economist who knows the oil-and-gas industry from the inside, having been in the merchant marines hauling platforms and rigs to sundry locations in the Gulf. Industry exposure didn’t end there; he was in grad school six months after the Exxon Valdez sullied the Arctic shore and studied first-hand the economics of accidents. He was not dismayed. In his words, “Shale gas is a revolution. It has transformed energy in America. What we’re seeing now is but the tip of the iceberg.” He didn’t say from which dwindling sheet it might have been calved.
Yet Flores is not utterly enchanted by the industry. There is what he terms a problem of externalities, meaning that the full cost of the venture is not appreciated when such “routine” risks as methane leaks and pollution of ground or surface water, and “high-priority” risks such as cement, drill-casing, and wastewater-impoundment failures, are not factored into the economic analysis. Such externalities are often expensive and not easily addressed, and should be internalized to reflect real costs.
Having lived in San Francisco, which receives water from the Hetch Hetchy water system, a system so pristine it is one of the few for which the Environmental Protection Agency requires no filtration, Flores comprehends the preciousness of pure water. He wonders what will happen if in our zeal to poke the earth we should inadvertently pollute a major aquifer such as the Ogallala, which underlies eight states and once contained water equal in quantity to Lake Huron. (It too is dwindling.) If such an integral resource should be fouled by whatever means, what then? Part of the damage hits the pocketbook. In heavily fracked Washington County, Pennsylvania, property values have declined almost 25 percent in places overlying aquifers through which drillers cement their casings. Is it “right” that property values have declined, or is it just perception? The answer is unimportant; all that matters is perception’s effect on the market.
Flores notes EPA’s limp-wristed governance of greenhouse gases. Methane, the major component of natural gas, is utterly ignored. (Oh, there are voluntary programs.) EPA may have downsized its prior estimate of how much methane leaks from fracking wells, but that puts it at odds with NOAA‘s recent study. Who is right? In any case, geologists and EPA agree that, compared to conventional drilling, hydraulic fracturing leaks more methane. Fracking fluid is injected and then pumped out (or a percentage is), but it returns laden with natural gas and other disinterred volatile chemicals that if released foul the air around drill sites. An estimated 90 percent of this “burping” can be captured in a “green-completion” process that caps the well and separates the petrochemicals for later sale. Even though this is of economic benefit of drillers, however, it is by no means always done; old fields may lack technology while new fields may have neither pipelines nor storage facilities built, and meanwhile methane seeps away. As you may know, methane in the atmosphere is a serious contender in atmospheric warming. Atmospheric methane gradually converts to carbon dioxide so it is over the short term that it does its damage. In its first 20 years, methane’s ability to capture heat in the atmosphere dwarfs that of carbon dioxide 70 times over.
Much like spent rods from nuclear plants and almost as dangerous, wastewater is a facet of fracking often overlooked and underfunded. Current options include dumping it into often-open holding pools, forcing it into injection wells, or recycling. Dumping it anywhere presents obvious problems including, with injection wells, persuasive evidence of earthquakes. Recycling would be great, but it’s not easy to clean water laced with not only heavy metals and radionuclides but dissolved salts, which require reverse osmosis or other exotic means to treat. (If desalinating salt water were easy, the world would have no freshwater problem, at least not yet.)
Options for dealing with wastewater are under creative review. Why not ship it away? (What do you mean there is no away?) Last March the Coast Guard “quietly” sent to the White House a proposal to put fracking wastewater on barges, said to be safer for transport than trucks and trains. The toxic brew will be shipped to someone else’s back yard for disposal. Yucca Mountain anyone? Frio County, Texas, which is not among the state’s top gas producers but that nevertheless has more disposal wells than the three top gas-producing counties combined, is evaluating a penny-a-barrel fee on disposed wastewater. The compensation is expected to bring the county over a million dollars a year, which would feed a fund to combat environmental damage.
We have such faith in compensation. While it comforts the aggrieved and pains the aggressor, that’s often as far as it goes. And the aggressor’s pain may be tiny indeed. Caps on damages provide a well-trod path for industry to escape real consequence for their sins. (Caps can zap citizens on the other cheek when they limit damages for civil suits.) In the end, let us not forget that no amount of compensation will restore what is irreplaceable.
Subterranean Aquifer Blues
Although groundwater property rights vary widely by state, they generally emphasize water quantity over contamination. Some landowners may use as much groundwater as they wish without regard for impacts anywhere else. This is called the Absolute Dominion Rule, and it is codified in 11 states, including Texas. “Use” in this case would include, I suppose, the right to pollute the groundwater. Colorado and other western states have adopted a doctrine of Prior Appropriation–the first landowner to “beneficially” use or divert water from underground is given priority over later users. Now many states have updated this doctrine with a permit system. Available permits are in hot pursuit; you can guess by whom.
When your well-water starts fizzing, fingering the culprit isn’t easy. Contaminants act differently underground, like senators behind doors. How do you prove who polluted the water, and when, and how? Equally important, what is to be done? EPA says that much progress on cleaning polluted aquifers has been made. Wells can shlep contaminated water to the surface for treatment. This intensive technology works if contaminants contain neither solvents nor oil and so long as the contamination has not spread. Since fracking fluid and wastewater are excluded and aquifers tend not to be contained, EPA’s assertion seems delusional.
Small producers lose their shirts in these times of low gas prices, so one might wonder why they keep drilling. Two reasons. Leases may mandate that lessees use their drilling rights or lose them. And prices may be low now, but just wait. Prices for natural gas in other areas–Japan, Europe–are much higher. It costs to convert gas to liquefied natural gas for long-distance transport, but producers have their eyes on the prize and preparations are being made. US prices will then rise; it won’t go the other way around.
It wasn’t so long ago that energy prices were rising in the face of looming energy scarcity. Very quickly shale-gas production has reversed that. In the first decade of this century, US gas production went from almost none to more than 10 billion cubic feet per day. In 2012, shale gas was 50 percent of the gas market; by 2035, Flores says, the percentage should swell to three-quarters. If oil imports diminish and “petro dollars” remain in the US, the dollar should be fortified and economic growth fueled by this bonanza. That is, to the extent that the bonanza remains both at low prices and here. And to the extent that climate change does not rudely intervene.
Natural gas may burn cleanly but it remains a fossil fuel. Our dependence on fossil fuels is irrevocably changing our world while we tend to our piquant concerns. Even if less is escaping at wellheads, incalculable amounts of methane now erupt from thawing Arctic tundra and waters. Will depleting a new fossil fuel will be our salvation?
WASHINGTON — Cleanup workers, doctors, divers and Gulf Coast residents interviewed by a Washington watchdog group have reported health problems from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, including blood in the urine, heart palpitations, kidney and liver damage, migraines, memory loss and reduced IQ.
A dispersant plane was photographed April 27, 2010 passing an oil skimmer working to clean the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. ( Associated Press archive)
An advocacy group for whistleblowers inside and outside government, the Government Accountability Project said that official statements from representatives of BP and the federal government about the potential dangers of chemical dispersants were false and misleading.
“Apparently, BP and the federal government intend to make Corexit’s application the standard operating procedure for oil spill cleanups,” said GAP investigator Shanna Devine, lead author of the report released Wednesday morning. “We’ve found, however, that Corexit’s use led to terrible effects on human health and the environment.”
BP spokesman Scott Dean said, “Use of dispersants during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response was coordinated with and approved by federal agencies including the US Coast Guard and EPA. Based on extensive monitoring conducted by BP and the federal agencies, BP is not aware of any data showing worker or public exposures to dispersants at levels that would pose a health or safety concern.”
Calls to the Environmental Protection Agency for comment were not immediately returned.
Devine said GAP “compiled evidence that suggest a higher than normal frequency of seafood mutations and pockets of dead ocean areas where life was previously abundant.”
GAP said documents and statements from cleanup workers and others suggests that Corexit gave the impression it was causing the oil to disappear, but the oil because “less visible, yet more toxic.”
According to the GAP report:
Federally required worker resource manuals detailing Corexit’s potential health hazards were either not delivered or removed from BP worksites early in the clean-up, as health problems began.
A government agency regulation prohibited diving during the spill due to concerns about potential health risks. Yet, the Government Accountability Project said, divers contracted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were told it was safe to go deep into Gulf waters without protective equipment,.
Nearly half the cleanup workers interviewed reported that they were threatened with termination when they tried to wear respirators or additional safety equipment.
Jorey Danos, a cleanup worker, told GAP that when he told a BP representative he’d like a respirator, he was told: “If you wear a respirator, it is bringing attention to yourself because no one else is wearing respirators. And you can get fired for that.”
In another affidavit, Kindra Arnesen, described as a Louisiana resident, said the national director of the Children’s Health Fund found a medical chest full of nebulizers during a visit to Boothville Elementary School in Plaquemines Parish.
“Where’s the red flag,” Arnesen said in her affidavit. “What is causing that many breathing problems with that number of kids? That is abnormal. At Boothville Elementary, we have sick kids all over the place who are suffering from upper respiratory infections, severe asthma, skin infections, blisters in between their fingers and arms on their legs and their feet…These kids were fine before the spill and the spraying of Corexit began.”
Dr. Michael Robichaux said he found similar symptoms among patients who had been exposed to Corexit. The symptoms, he said, “were different from anything that I had ever observed in my 40 plus years as a physician.”
“However, until people are educated about the symptoms associated with exposure to toxic waste from the spill, we cannot assume they will make the connection,” he said. “I continue to witness this disconnect and these symptoms on a daily basis.”
GAP received research help and other assistance from the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.
Corporate Crimes the Villains gallery
Dedicated to those who do not have to serve jail time.
Dedicated to those with the money to buy justice.
Dedicated to those who have the wealth bypass their legal obligations
Dedicated to those who live without ethical obligations to their fellow man
Dedicated to those who destroy the planet for profit alone
Dedicated to the arms dealers who sell their weapons of destruction to all and sundry
Dedicated to all who have abandoned all sense of moral responsibility for what they do
Dedicated to those who look after the 1% of the world’s population
Tamboran Resources and Enegi Oil apply for Fracking Exploration Licences
Two companies have applied for exploration licences which could lead to the controversial process of fracking.
The initial onshore licences which only allowed for initial studies were granted two years ago and will expire tomorrow. Both companies had to apply for an exploration licence to continue their operations.
Exploration licences involve commitments to drill an exploration well, or wells.
A separate drilling permit is required before drilling is allowed.
In advance of any drilling, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) would have to be conducted and that EIA would include a public consultation phase.
In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is carrying out its own study into fracking and it may be years before commercial drilling is allowed to take place, if at all.
Nevertheless, both companies have expressed satisfaction at the findings of their initial studies of both areas.
Tamboran estimates that 4.4 trillion cubic feet of gas could be under the ground in an area centred on south Fermanagh and north Leitrim, although independent estimates suggest the figure is closer to 3.2 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Enegi Oil says its initial findings suggest there may be between 1.49 trillion cubic feet and 3.86 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Greg Palast in Dublin. Photo: William Hederman
Ireland is totally unsuited to the process of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ to extract natural gas, according to the best-selling author of a book on the global oil and gas industry. Greg Palast, a renowned investigative journalist, said there was “no chance whatsoever” that US regulators would allow the controversial process in the kind of terrain for which it is proposed in Ireland.
“You may think American regulators are bad – and they are, they’re in the pockets of the oil industry – but even the worst of them would not allow fracking in areas like those proposed for Ireland,” he told Liberty. “If you took the counties where fracking is proposed in Ireland and stuck them down in the middle of the USA, there is no chance whatsoever that they would allow any drilling there.”
Fracking involves pumping tens of thousands of gallons of water, mixed with chemicals, at high pressure into shale rock in order to fracture the rock and release natural gas. The process has been banned in France and Bulgaria, as well as several states within the US, Germany, Canada and Australia.
Three companies have been given preliminary authorisations to explore for gas in parts of 12 Irish counties, including Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, Fermanagh and Clare. One of the companies, the Australia-based Tamboran Resources, has said that fracking is the only way to extract this gas.
These areas have seen a growing campaign of opposition to fracking, due to major health and environmental risks, including possible contamination of water supplies. Five Irish local authorities have voted to ban fracking.
Palast was invited to Ireland by the No Fracking Ireland campaign and spoke to packed audiences in Enniskillen, Carrick-On-Shannon and Dublin. He says that when he visited some of the areas of Leitrim and Fermanagh for which fracking is proposed, he was shocked. “In the areas of the US where most fracking takes place, you can drive for days without seeing anyone. There are no people, there’s no water.”
“In areas such as Maryland and Pennsylvania, that are geologically and agriculturally like Ireland, they’ve pretty much stopped it,” he says. “In America you aren’t allowed to drill through aquifers [deposits of groundwater] to get to gas. In Ireland you’d have to drill through aquifers, because the whole country is on top of aquifers.”
In May, a preliminary study into fracking in Ireland by the University of Aberdeen for Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified potential risks to groundwater purity and tremors or earthquakes. Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, has said no fracking will take place here before a much more in-depth study is carried out.
Palast says the Aberdeen University study was misreported by the Irish media. “What the Aberdeen study said is that nobody has studied this: nobody knows about the geology, the water tables, nobody knows anything. You’re digging a hole and you’re wishing.”
Tamboran has said it will not use any chemicals during fracking in Ireland. However, campaigners argue the company has yet to show that it will be possible to frack without chemicals. Furthermore, as Palast warns: “Even if you don’t use chemicals, nature does. There are poisons that nature has locked away for many thousands of years and we’re unlocking it.”
Palast, who has been investigating pipeline explosions for more than 20 years, initially as a US government investigator, warns against “destroying Ireland’s tourism potential for a few quick bucks”.
His latest book, Vultures’ Picnic, explores how environmental disasters such as BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 are caused by corporate corruption and failed legislation. Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, he discovered that an identical blow-out had occurred two years earlier on another BP rig in the Caspian Sea but was covered up by the company.
“If you trust oil companies, talk to the people of Louisiana about trusting BP,” he says.
This article was orginally published in the July 2012 issue of Liberty, the newspaper of the trade union SIPTU.
Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘Fracking’, is an
Industrial process used to exploit ‘unconventional gas plays’, areas where methane gas is distributed throughout the rock layer rather than concentrated in one reservoir. Fracking involves pumping massive volumes of water(3 to 5 million gallons plus per well), mixed with sand and chemicals, under huge pressure, to open up natural fissures in the gas bearing rock and allow the gas to be forced up the well to the surface to be harvested.
While Fracking has been around since the late 1940s, recent technological advances have led to a huge surge in shale gas exploitation since 2007. The Bush regime in the US exempted Fracking from clean air and water legislation, which allowed it to proliferate with a minimal of environmental regulation.
Fracking has caused environmental degradation and pollution of water supplies across the US. A 2011 study by researchers at Duke University in the US firmly establishes the connection between the Fracking process and
water contamination*. Three companies have been given preliminary authorisations to explore for shale gas in parts of 12 Irish counties, including
Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, Fermanagh and Clare. Five Irish local authorities have voted to ban Fracking, but the decision on whether or not to allow it will rest with Government ministers and the Environmental Protection Agency.
There are numerous concerns surrounding this process, including:
• Environmental damage, air and water pollution,
in particular drinking water supply;
• Excessive water usage;
• Industrialisation of a rural landscape with
drilling pads on intersections of a 2 km grid;
• Infrastructure risk caused by a massive increase
in HGV traffic and resultant damage
to roads and increased risk of accidents;
• Long term human and animal health risks;
• Delaying of the transition to a low-carbon
• Economic risks, another short term construction
boom, followed by a massive bill
to the taxpayer to clean up the environmental
damage, while ownership of the gas is
transferred to private companies with a
negligible financial return to the State;
• Risks to Ireland’s tourism industry and to
Ireland’s reputation as a clean, green food
BP has been blocked from seeking new contracts with the US government because of the oil company’s “lack of business integrity” during the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.
The temporary order bans BP from competing for new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico – such as the auction of 20m acres taking place on Wednesday – or from bidding on new contracts to supply the Pentagon or other government agencies with fuel.
While the ban does not affect existing business, it raises wider questions about the company’s future in a crucial market.
The type of suspension imposed by the EPA typically does not last more than 18 months. But an official said that in this case the ban could be extended because of the ongoing legal proceedings. That could mean BP, the largest oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico, would remain under an extended moratorium until all criminal charges and law suits are resolved.
BP was clearly taken by surprise and struggled to explain the impact on its business. Its shares fell nearly 2% in London as investors reacted with dismay to the news which puts a major dent in the company’s already battered reputation.
The order was handed down just two weeks after BP agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges arising from the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, as well as pay a record $4.5bn in fines.
The oil company, in announcing its plea deal with the Justice Department earlier this month, had specifically said it did not expect to be barred from future business dealings. “Under US law, companies convicted of certain criminal acts can be debarred from contracting with the federal government,” the company said in its statement at the time. “BP has not been advised of the intention of any federal agency to suspend or debar the company in connection with this plea agreement.”
The EPA said the suspension was based on BP’s conduct at the time of the blow-out as well as the 87 days it took to contain the well. Some 4.9m barrels of crude gushed into the Gulf of Mexico before it was finally capped.
“EPA is taking this action due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill, and response, as reflected by the filing of a criminal information,” the announcement said.
The announcement went on to describe the oil spill as the “largest environmental disaster in US history”.
It said BP would remain under suspension, and barred from new federal government contracts and transactions, until the company can demonstrate that it meets federal business standards.
“Federal executive branch agencies take these actions to ensure the integrity of federal programmes by conducting business only with responsible individuals or companies. Suspensions are a standard practice when a responsibility question is raised by action in a criminal case,” the EPA announcement said.
The agency gave no further details about the duration of the suspension, and the potential costs to BP were not immediately clear.
In its response, BP said the ban would not affect existing business. “The temporary suspension does not affect any existing contracts the company has with the US government, including those related to current and ongoing drilling and production operations in the Gulf of Mexico,” BP said.
The company said it was working with EPA and the US Justice Department to lift the suspension. “The EPA has informed BP that it is preparing a proposed administrative agreement that, if agreed upon, would effectively resolve and lift this temporary suspension. The EPA notified BP that such a draft agreement would be available soon,” the statement said.
The press release also noted that BP had been granted more than 50 new leases in the Gulf of Mexico since the oil disaster.
Peter Hutton, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said the EPA action had “real significance”, especially as it came days after Lamar McKay, the head of BP in America, was promoted to head of global exploration and production.
“The critical question is whether this is a shot across BP’s bows to get a settlement, or a more sustained stance, in which case the importance of the context is underlined by comments from BP’s chief financial officer, Brian Gilvary, in a recent conference call that such actions could ‘affect BP’s investment thesis in US’.”
But Joe Lampel, professor of strategy at the Cass Business School in London, said while the ban was a blow to BP the damage should be relatively limited.
“This suspension should be seen as an additional penalty rather than a pressure tactic that the US government often uses when it wants to force firms to concede liability. We do not know how long the ban will last, but I suspect that it will be lifted after a sufficient grace period has passed.”
In its attempt to consign Deepwater to the past, BP has agreed to pay $7.8bn to settle private claims stemming from the spill, and with the plea deal reached earlier this month, had hoped to limit its criminal liability. It is still on the hook for up to $21bn for environmental damage to the Gulf. Wednesday’s move by the EPA presents an additional complication.
Meanwhile, two BP rig supervisors appeared in a New Orleans court on Wednesday to be formally charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 11 workers aboard the rig. The supervisors, Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza, are accused of ignoring abnormal pressure readings seen as a red flag of a well blow-out.
Kaluza told reporters just before his hearing that he was innocent of the charges. “I think about the tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon every day. But I did not cause the tragedy,” he told reporters at the court. “I am innocent and I put my trust, reputation and future in the hands of the judge and jury.”
A former BP executive David Rainey was charged separately for allegedly lying to Congress about the amount of oil that was gushing from the well. All three men were expected to plead not guilty.
The EPA action was positively received by a number of key players, including former senator Bob Graham, who had chaired the White House oil spill commission. “I can’t put a dollar figure on what that would mean but I would assume that access to one of the larger reserves of petroleum in the world – which the Gulf of Mexico is – would have some economic consequences. And the longer the prohibition, the greater the consequences,” Graham told the Guardian.
He went on to praise the Obama administration for holding the oil company to account.
“I think sending a very strong signal that the federal government is going to be a much better steward of public property and that those who are permitted to explore and then potentially exploit those public properties are going to have to conduct themselves by world-class standards,” Graham said.
Campaign groups also applauded the move by the EPA. But the Oceana conservation group said the tough line from the Obama administration was undercut by its decision to go ahead with new lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday.
“We are pleased that BP is being penalised for the irresponsible actions,” said Matt Dundas, the campaign director. But he went on: “Overall, President Obama is missing the lesson of the Deepwater Horizon disaster which is that offshore drilling is inherently dirty and dangerous and needs to be phased out.”