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How the West was Lost 


Oil Activity Continues to Grow in Big Hill Springs Area

'It’s an example of how we are trying to minimize the impact.'

A home and outbuildings on Lochend Road near Calgary, Rocky View County Alberta By Rachel Maclean, September 21, 2010, Cochrane Eagle

The appearance of oil wells popping up along Big Hill Springs Road has caused some concern to local residents who have no idea what the scope of the oil activity is in the region.

One company in the area,  Calgary-based NAL Resources, released an update Sept. 13 on its operations. While the company also has projects in Saskatchewan, drilling locally started in 2009 with one well. 

After positive initial findings, NAL decided to expand its operations in the area. To date, the company has drilled two more cardium oil wells in the area along Big Hill Springs Road (Highway 567) — one near Lochend Road and another on Range Road 40.

... Drilling this type of oil became more commonplace in 2009 with the new technology of directional drilling, which bores down through the earth’s layers 2,000 metres and then heads out horizontally more than 1,000 metres to access oil in the source rock.

Circle the welcome wagons, a new 'good neighbor' multi-well pad moves in. Lochend Road, Rocky View County AlbertaIt is considered more efficient than vertical drilling because vertical drills only target a very specific location.

Horizontal drilling allows the rig to access oil pockets, and with the addition of “fracking,” or fracture simulating to open up the rock a little bit, it allows the oil to flow better.

“Those two things in combination are giving enough economic return to make it viable,” said Paradis, adding that while horizontal drills cost two to three times more than a vertical well the company is getting four to five more times the production rate.

It also allows for pad drilling where multiple horizontal wells are drilled out of one location.

“It’s much more efficient from a surface land perspective,” said Paradis.

“It’s an example of how we are trying to minimize the impact.”

... He said the company is not allowed to venture onto a landowners property without permission, and if the landowner doesn’t agree to a surface rights agreement then NAL is not able to use that land.

... There are also plans to build a pipeline in co-operation with other oil producers in the area because of a directive from the ERCB for gas conservation, which doesn’t allow for gas flares at a well. ... more.


Workshop Defines Oil And Cattle Concerns

The call to reduce emissions follows a report from the Alberta Research Council that claims the practice of flaring petroleum byproducts with no commercial value was damaging surrounding land. The report, which was released in December, said nearly 250 chemicals are released into the environment through the practice of flaring. It also identified benzene, a known cancer-causing agent, as one chemical released through flaring.

By Alberta Beef Magazine, 1997

The provincial government and the petroleum and cattle industries got together in April to discuss what can be done to reduce the potential impacts of petroleum development on beef production. 

Reducing emissions from oil and gas developments and identifying any possible risks from petroleum production to cattle health emerged as priorities at the workshop. The workshop is one of a number of efforts that have occurred since the release of the Alberta Cattle Commission report on the impact of petroleum development last year.

The call to reduce emissions follows a report from the Alberta Research Council that claims the practice of flaring petroleum byproducts with no commercial value was damaging surrounding land. The report, which was released in December, said nearly 250 chemicals are released into the environment through the practice of flaring. It also identified benzene, a known cancer-causing agent, as one chemical released through flaring. 

The study went on to say the land surrounding Alberta’s 5,300 flare sites is as polluted as any urban industrial site. It didn’t, however, comment on whether the pollution in the flaring areas was having any health effects on nearby cattle.

Petroleum industry representatives have acknowledged the need to reduce emissions and to reduce the practice of flaring. They say they are making progress on the issue but the problem isn’t going to be solved overnight. 

The ACC’s report also acknowledges that inefficient flaring is the, "largest source of volatile contaminants that may effect cattle."

The issue of whether petroleum development is affecting cattle health remains unanswered. The ACC’s report says there has been little research done on the effects of petroleum contamination on cattle and that the amount of contaminants reaching cattle has never been measured. It called for more investigation on such topics as:

  • cattle exposed to high concentrations of chemicals during disasters like blowouts
  • the effect of low level contamination on the reproductive and immune systems in cattle
  • expanded monitoring of ground water to cover situations where petroleum development may affect drinking water. ... more.


Investigations Of Flare Gas Emissions In Alberta

By M. Strosher, Environmental Technologies, Alberta Research Council, Calgary Alberta, November 1996

... 6.3 Phase 3, Field Studies

The third phase of these studies was focused on industrial flaring operations at oilfield battery sites, typical of the kind where the majority of solution gas flaring occurs in Alberta.  Two different sites were examined; one, a sweet oilfield battery with no hydrogen sulfide in any of the produced streams and the other, a sour site that contained approximately 23 weight % hydrogen sulfide in the gaseous stream that was directed to flare.  The majority of the field testing was carried out at the sweet oilfield battery site.

The following are some of the major findings that were derived from phase 3.

6.3.1 Sweet battery flare

  • Flaring of sweet solution gas at low flow rates, and after it passed through the knock-out drum was found to burn with an efficiency of approximately 71%.  The lower efficiency is not only due to the unburned hydrocarbons from the fuel stream that escape into the emissions but also to the higher concentrations of produced hydrocarbons, such as benzene and other low molecular weight aromatics, as well as larger concentrations of higher molecular weight compounds, including many polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.     
  • Increasing the sweet solution gas flow to produce a flame 3 to 4 times longer than that obtained while flaring lower levels, increased the carbon content in the emissions by approximately 5 times, the volatile hydrocarbons by about 33%, and the non-volatiles by up to 3 times the concentrations found in emissions above the smaller flame. This higher volume flame burned with a combustion efficiency of 67%.   
  • Sampling at twice the distance from this flame found reduced concentrations of all components in these emissions to approximately 30% of values obtained closer to the flame.  Combustion efficiency measurements were approximately the same (66%).                                                                                
  • The combustion efficiency as measured in the emissions above these flames was further reduced by 5% to approximately 62% with the addition of more liquid fuel.                                                                                                                              
  • ... Benzene, styrene, ethynyl benzene, napthalene, ethynyl-methyl benzenes, toluene, xylenes, acenaphthylene, biphenyl, and fluorene were, in most cases, the most abundant compounds found in any of the emissions examined in the sweet oilfield flare testing. In the worst case, they were found in concentrations exceeding 300mg/m3.  These emissions usually contained between 100 and 150 identified hydrocarbons.                                                                                                                                          
  • A large amount of the hydrocarbons found in the emissions above these flames are not just unburned hydrocarbons present in the fuel stream, but hydrocarbons produced within the flame by the pyrolytic reactions ... .

6.3.2 Sour battery flare

  • Flare testing at the sour oilfield battery site with solution gas containing 23% hydrogen sulfide and much lower amounts of liquid hydrocarbons directed to flare, produced measured combustion efficiencies of 84%, as calculated by the carbon mass balance, and 82.4% as measured by the sulfur mass balance.        
  • Emissions from this more efficient flame were found to contain over 50% lower concentrations of aromatic hydrocarbons, approximately 20% less aliphatic hydrocarbons, and between 50 to 70% less carbon particles than concentrations detected in emissions from the sweet battery flare.                            
  • The most abundant sulfur compound measured in these emissions other than the sulfur dioxide was carbon disulfide, followed by some thiophenes, hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and other sulfur containing compounds.

... The laboratory studies definitively established that even the simplest of fuels, methane, produces relatively large quantities of pyrolytic products within the oxygen-void portion of the flame.

... Other fuels do not burn quite so efficiently and slightly higher amounts of these produced hydrocarbons as well as some of the unburned fuel could be found in their emissions. The addition of liquids fuels, such as condensates, to gaseous fuel streams was found to have the most profound effect on impairing the ability of the resulting flame to efficiently combust all of the hydrocarbon fuel as well as the hydrocarbons that were produced within these flames. ... more.


Gas Flaring Health Study Shelved

Alberta Health and Wellness, which had originally budgeted $2 million over two years for the human-health component, says now it’s not necessary.

Spokesman David Dear says the department already spends a considerable amount every year studying the effects of oilfield emissions on the public.

... The research has shown no health risk to the public from oilfield emissions, he noted.

By Mark Lowey - Business Edge, Published: January 24, 2002 - Vol. 2, No. 4

An Alberta-led $19.3-million western Canada study into the health effects of oilfield gas flaring on people and livestock has run short of money – and the human health portion has been shelved.

Alberta will be taking a huge step backward in trying to resolve the flaring issue if money isn’t found to complete the three years of research, including the human health work, says Tee Guidotti, co-chair of the study’s science advisory panel.

“The issue will resurface, there’s no question about it,” said Guidotti, a former University of Alberta scientist and now a professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. “The whole history of this type of study in Alberta has been one of dodging the problem and having it come back to bite them.”

The study is being managed, independent of government and industry, by the not-for-profit Western Interprovincial Scientific Studies Association.

It expects to make an announcement as early as this week on the study’s funding shortfall.

When the Alberta government announced the study more than a year ago, it said the research would finally provide some answers to a controversy that has raged in the province for 40 years.

Many rural landowners – including convicted northern Alberta oilfield saboteur Wiebo Ludwig – blame flaring for causing health problems in people and livestock. The complaints range from flu-like symptoms to spontaneous abortions and cancer.

Studies have shown that flaring – the burning of unwanted or uneconomical natural gas – releases low concentrations of hundreds of chemical compounds, many of them toxic and some cancer-causing.

The oil and gas industry has always insisted there is no scientific research that proves flaring harms people or livestock.

The Western Canada Study on Animal and Human Health Effects Associated with Exposure to Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Field Facilities was supposed to provide some answers.

Guidotti said the work done so far has been “world class.”

It compares the productivity and disease resistance of beef cattle herds in areas where flaring occurs to the health of herds where there are no oilfield emissions.

The research, although preliminary, looks likely to answer the question of whether flaring is causing a widespread health problem affecting beef cattle in Alberta and other western provinces, Guidotti said.

But researchers still require about $8.3 million over two years to analyse the information they’re collecting and gather air-monitoring data for the study areas.

Alberta Environment says it has already contributed $11 million toward the animal-health research.

The department has asked the petroleum industry and the other provinces to put some money on the table. “We’ve put a lot of resources into it already,” said Alberta Environment spokesman Mark Cooper. “It would be a horrible shame if we’re not able to complete it.”

The department has asked the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), the regulatory Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, and British Columbia and Saskatchewan to come up with funding. B.C. had earlier contributed $20,000, but the other stakeholders have yet to put any money in.

Alberta oil and gas companies have voluntarily reduced flaring from oilfield batteries – small facilities that separate liquids from oil and gas – by 38 per cent since 1996. But that still leaves well over one billion cubic metres of gas flared and vented (released unburned) across the province each year.

David Pryce, manager of environment and operations for CAPP, says it intends to make up part of the study’s $8.3-million shortfall.

“It’s a multi-province-sponsored project, so we’d be looking to (governments) to review what further funding they’re prepared to put into this,” he said.

If government is contemplating new policy or regulations on flaring because of concerns about impacts on human health, “then that component of the study should be going forward as well,” Pryce said.

But Alberta Health and Wellness, which had originally budgeted $2 million over two years for the human-health component, says now it’s not necessary.

Spokesman David Dear says the department already spends a considerable amount every year studying the effects of oilfield emissions on the public.

Alberta Health contributed one-third of a recent $2-million study on oilsands emissions in the Fort McMurray area, Dear said. Suncor and Syncrude paid the rest.

The department also is contributing $180,000 toward an ongoing study with industry of refinery and other industrial emissions in Fort Saskatchewan east of Edmonton.

Alberta Health’s experts “are quite confident that the information we’re getting from (those studies) is excellent,” he said.

The research has shown no health risk to the public from oilfield emissions, he noted.

Dear said that if the Western Canada study’s animal-health findings do show any cause for concern, then Alberta Health would reconsider doing a follow-up study on human health.

Even if the animal health portion is completed, some farmers, ranchers and environmentalists are sure to question its results.

Rocky Mountain House veterinarian and environmentalist Martha Kostuch, a longtime critic of flaring, said the study’s scientists rejected the advice from an expert committee on how to design the research.

As a result, the work on beef cattle won’t include any laboratory tests on the animals as they’re being exposed to flaring emissions, she said.

“If they don’t find effects, (all it means is) they don’t know whether there would have been effects if you had been doing acute monitoring,” Kostuch said.

But science adviser Guidotti insists the advisory committee’s input was considered, although not all of it was incorporated in the study.

And while he’s confident the research will help answer questions about flaring’s impact on beef cattle, he stressed that without doing the human-health component, “the issue of human health effects is still wide open.”


The Western Canada Beef Productivity Study

Increasing postnatal airborne exposures to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) measured as benzene and toluene were associated with increased frequency of lung lesions, including pneumonia, found in calves that died during the study ...

Beef Cattle Research Council, August 8, 2012

... In this study, there was no association between any measure of exposure to the oil and gas industry and the occurrence of non-pregnancy (Waldner, 2008d), abortion, or stillbirth (Waldner, 2009). The time from breeding to calving was 3.0 days longer for mature cows exposed to VOCs measured as benzene concentrations in the highest 25% compared with cows exposed to benzene concentrations in the lowest 25% (Waldner, 2008d).

Exposure to SO2 near the time of calving was associated with an increase in calf death losses (Waldner, 2008e). For every 1 ppb increase in SO2 in the 3-month period before calving, the odds of calf mortality increased by 1.3 times. This was the equivalent to a 1 to 2% increase in total calf mortality before 3 months of age associated with exposure to the highest measured concentrations of SO2 (Figure 1 and 2). For the average ranch in this study (approximately 150 cows), this would be equivalent to the loss of 2 to 3 additional calves.

Increasing postnatal airborne exposures to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) measured as benzene and toluene were associated with increased frequency of lung lesions, including pneumonia, found in calves that died during the study (Waldner and Clark, 2009). The association between VOCs measured as benzene and respiratory lesions was most apparent in calves older than 3 weeks (Figure 3).

Increasing exposure to SO2 during gestation was also associated with more frequent changes in the skeletal and heart muscle observed in the calves that died during the study.

The immune system in these animals was evaluated using a series of measurements on blood and tissues. T-lymphocytes were found to be lower in calves exposed to the highest levels of benzene and toluene, which may make the animals less able to respond to infection. Numbers of two specific types of circulating T-lymphocytes were 42% and 43% lower, respectively, in calves exposed to the highest 25% of VOCs measured as airborne concentrations of benzene compared with calves exposed to concentrations in the lowest 25% (Bechtel et al., 2009b). A decrease in one type of T-cells in calves was also seen at the highest concentrations of toluene. Similarly, a 30% decrease in one type of T-lymphocytes was seen in yearling heifers exposed to the highest 25% concentrations of toluene (Bechtel et al., 2009c). ... more.


Determinants Of Airborne Benzene Concentrations In Rural Areas Of Western Canada

Our results suggest that there is a detectable impact of primary oil and gas industry on quality of rural air.

By Igor Burstyn, Xiaoqing (Isabelle) You, Nicola Cherry, Ambikaipakan Senthilselvan

Department of Public Health Sciences, The University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta., Canada, Community and Occupational Medicine Program, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, The University of Alberta, 13-103E Clinical Sciences Building, Edmonton, Alta., Canada  

Received 2 November 2006; received in revised form 1 June 2007; accepted 9 June 2007


This study estimated the level and determinants of airborne benzene concentrations in rural western Canada. A multisite, multi-month unbalanced two-factorial design was used to collect air samples at 1206 fixed sites across a geographic area associated with primary oil and gas industry in Canadian provinces of Alberta, north-eastern British Columbia, and central and southern Saskatchewan from April 2001 to December 2002. Benzene concentrations integrated over 1 calendar month were determined using passive organic vapour monitors. Linear mixed effects models were applied to identify the determinants of airborne benzene concentrations, in particular the proximity to oil and gas facilities. The observed geometric mean of benzene concentrations was 158 ngm3, with large geometric standard deviation: 4.9. Benzene concentrations showed a seasonal variation with maxima in winter and minima in summer. Emissions from oil well (within 2 km) and compressor influenced monthly airborne benzene concentrations. However, in our study, being located in the general area of a gas plant seems to be the most important in determining monthly airborne benzene concentrations. These findings support the need for investigation of the impact of oil and gas industry on quality of rural air.

  ... This project is the only large-scale study into determinants of environmental benzene concentrations in rural  area with diverse and numerous primary oil and gas industry. Our results suggest that there is a detectable impact of primary oil and gas industry on quality of rural air.

Given the recognized toxicity of benzene, any possible human exposures due to modifiable sources, as appears to be the case when oil and gas infrastructure intermingles with farmland, should be carefully investigated with a view towards conducting rigorous risk assessment. ... more.


Gas Flaring, Venting May Rise As Prices Languish

Albertans are generally unaware of how much gas is being released 

By Dan Healing, Calgary Herald October 20, 2011

Flaring and venting of natural gas in Alberta could easily rise as exploration and production activity driven by higher oil and petroleum liquids prices increases this winter, an industry regulator predicts.

Low gas prices are also driving the trend ... companies are allowed to burn or release unwanted gas produced with oil or liquids if it's not economically viable to recover it.

... although the province made great strides in reducing flaring and venting in the 1990's, there is no appetite by the government or industry to go further.

'What's really needed is a clear indication from the Alberta government that they want to see further reductions in flaring and venting and that's absent right now.'

... Albertans are generally unaware of how much gas is being released.

... 'The trick is to get at the smaller flares and vents because there are literally thousands of them,' said Severson-Baker.

'Combined, they put out the equivalent of about half a million homes worth of gas in Alberta, so it's a significant amount of gas that's not being captured.' 

Past reductions in flaring and venting in Alberta have been driven by the Clean Air Strategic Alliance, a partnership of government departments, environmentalists and industry that was formed by the province in 1994 as an advisory committee.

Robyn Jacobsen, a senior manager at the alliance, said Wednesday a flaring and venting team put together by its board of directors in 2008 wrapped up its work last December and there has been no initiative since then to establish a new team with new terms of reference.

Severson-Baker, whose group is a member of the clean air alliance, said the team could not agree on initiatives to reduce solution gas flaring and venting and he decided to recommend disbanding because he "was tired of spinning our wheels."

Vaughan, who was the co-chair on the team for government, said industry also favoured disbanding the team, without saying why.

A board spokesman, Darin Barter, said the board favours flaring over venting because burning the fuel has less harmful effect on the environment than releasing it.

Conventional oil and gas wells can initially flare for up to 72 hours, after which the well must be shut in and an economic evaluation conducted to determine if it is viable to conserve, he said.

In unconventional oil development, including heavy oil and oilsands, companies may take up to six months to test a well and a further six months to tie the well into a pipeline to conserve the gas.

If it's not economical for gas produced from an oil well to be conserved, it can be flared or vented, Barter added. ... more. 

CAUS Holds Second Meeting to Address Fracking

"This is in our backyard,” said Tresidder, "and it’s not going to go away unless we say something."

By Derek Clouthier, October 3, 2012, Cochrane Eagle

The local coalition Cochrane Area Under Siege (CAUS) held a second open house to address their concerns over hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Lochend area.

The meeting, which saw approximately 20 people attend, touched upon several issues CAUS believes poses a threat to residents of the Cochrane region.

One of such threats was the claim that oil and gas companies with fracking operations in the area – which primarily consists of the six Lochend Industry Producers Group (LIPG) companies – are not employing the use of incinerators to properly burn off excess gas.

Gary Tresidder, who spoke during the CAUS open house, alleged that the use of flare stacks were being used instead of incinerators, and that these flare stacks (which he also claimed utilized what is referred to as a ‘flare shield’ to mask the height of the flame that can be seen during burn off) do not reach a high enough heat to entirely dissipate excess gas.

'They’re very ineffective and inefficient,' said Tresidder, 'and do not burn off the chemicals.'

He added that when there is a northerly wind, all those unburned chemicals get swept directly into Cochrane.

'This is in our backyard,” said Tresidder, 'and it’s not going to go away unless we say something.'

The LIPG, on the other hand, contend that their companies are making every attempt to not only discontinue the use of flare stacks, which they say they ceased using a year ago, but to be as efficient as possible. ... more.


Flaring of Gas Waste on Rise

Low prices blamed as Alberta companies flare or vent more gas

By Dan Healing, Calgary Herald September 28, 2012

Low natural gas prices and a boom in oil drilling in 2011 led to an additional five billion cubic feet of solution gas being burned or vented in Alberta, a report shows.

The volume of wasted gas increased 22 per cent in 2011 to nearly 28 billion cubic feet from 23 billion in 2010, the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board said in a yearly report released this week.

... Chris Severson-Baker, managing director of the environmental Pembina Institute, said conservation of solution gas increased from 92 per cent in 1996 to 96.3 per cent in 2005 mainly because the ERCB brought in an economic test that required producers to capture solution gas if they could do so in a cost-neutral or better way.

Flaring in Rocky View County, Alberta“What we’re seeing now is more flaring because the economics of gas are low but the other reason we’re seeing more flaring is because the economics of oil are so good,” he said. 

“It’s kind of a perverse arrangement because a higher price for oil isn’t translating into more money being spent to control flaring and venting. In fact, it’s resulting in less.”

He said the economic test should be applied more broadly to the entire operation, not just the gas side.

... The 2011 flaring and venting total equates to about 77 million cubic feet per day or less than one per cent of the 11.7 billion cubic feet per day Alberta producers sent to market.

'The decline in conservation in 2011 of 0.9 percentage points can be directly attributed to new crude oil and crude bitumen production during the year and low gas prices, which made solution gas conservation economically challenging,' the ERCB said in its report.

Flaring of gas at crude oil and oilsands batteries rose 42 per cent in 2011 over the previous year while venting increased only 4.5 per cent, the report notes.

The Pembina Institute says flaring and venting is wasteful because the resource could heat thousands of homes if captured.

Severson-Baker said there are also possible new health issues arising because of the popularity of hydraulic fracture stimulating or 'fracking' wells, where water or other liquids and substances are injected under high pressure to break up the tight formation underground and allow oil and gas to flow.

He said he’s heard from landowners concerned that fracked wells may be emitting substances into the solution gas stream that are dangerous or prevent complete combustion in the flare stack. ... more.


Effect Of Gas Flaring On Lung Function Among Residents In Gas Flaring Community In Delta State, Nigeria

BY S.I. Ovuakporaye, C.P. Aloamaka, A.E. Ojieh, D.E. Ejebe and J.C. Mordi

Submitted: February 10, 2012 Accepted: March 08, 2012 Published: May 15, 2012

Research Journal of Environmental and Earth Sciences 4(5): 525-528, 2012, ISSN: 2041-0492


Gas flaring is the burning off of gas, which sends a cocktail of poisons into the atmosphere. It is necessary to have an understanding of the adverse impact of chronic exposure from multiple flaring discharges on the health of people who live and work in proximity to the industry. Proximity has been defined as any distance between 0.2 to 35 km from the flare stack (Argo, 2002).

Gas flares have harmful effects on the health and livelihood of the communities in their vicinity, as they release a variety of poisonous chemicals. Some of the combustion by-products include nitrogen dioxides, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds like benzene, toluene, xylene and hydrogen sulfide, as well as carcinogens like benzapyrene and dioxin.

Humans exposed to such substances can suffer from variety of respiratory problems, which have been reported amongst many children in the Niger Delta. These chemicals can aggravate asthma, cause breathing difficulties and chest pain as well as chronic bronchitis (Environmental, 2005).


The study has established that gas flaring impact negatively on lung function of children and adults (males and females) residents in gas flaring community by reducing their mean peak expiratory flow rates. The severity of impact on peak expiratory flow rate worsens with longer exposure to gas flaring and hence marked reduction in Peak Expiratory Flow Rate. ... more.


Residents Near Douglas Fear Becoming ‘Another Pinedale or Pavillion’

By Willow Belden, October 5, 2012 - Wyoming Public Media



INTRO: This spring, an oil rig blew out near Douglas. Natural gas spewed into the air, and residents from a nearby neighborhood were evacuated for several days. Since the blowout, Chesapeake Energy has drilled several new wells around that same neighborhood, and residents have new concerns. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

BELDEN: The neighborhood in question is a cluster of modest homes, several miles northeast of Douglas. This summer, a ring of new oil wells sprang up around the community. Some are right across the street from peoples’ houses. And each well pad has a tall smoke stack with flames coming out the top. Those are flares. They’re used to burn off the natural gas that comes up as a byproduct with the oil.

Flares are a normal part of oil production. But some residents say they’re causing problems. Janice Switzer lives less than half a mile away from one new well. She has a big vegetable garden, where she grows everything from corn to kohlrabi. But now, many of her plants are brown and shriveled.

JANICE SWITZER: This started dying in July, and it wasn’t due to the heat, because I’ve got a ground-soaking system and it was watered every day.

BELDEN: Switzer suspected that the dying plants might have something to do with the new oil wells, so she called the Department of Environmental Quality. They sent someone out to look at the garden.

SWITZER: And he said that he felt – it was his own opinion, of course – but he felt that it was due to the flaring, the gases. He said, and I quote him, ‘You are the highest point, therefore you’re going to catch the most.’

BELDEN: As in, catch the most emissions from the flares. Switzer says that scared her.

SWITZER: If it kills my plants in the middle of the summer, it makes me wonder what it’s doing to me.

BELDEN: Switzer says she’s been waking up with headaches every day since the flaring began.

She isn’t the only resident who’s concerned. Her neighbors are worried about black smoke they often see pouring out of the flare tubes. They’re worried because they’ve also watched their gardens and trees die. One resident even says he smells gas in his drinking water.

Several community members have complained to the DEQ, to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and to Chesapeake Energy. But it’s not clear who’s responsible for addressing their concerns. Here’s Chesapeake Energy spokeswoman Kelsey Campbell.

KELSEY CAMPBELL: We fully adhere to all local, state and federal regulations on flaring and emissions. And if any residents feel that this is not occurring, they should contact the state’s regulators and ask the regulators to address any concerns they may have.

BELDEN: So I contacted the regulators. I started with DEQ, and I asked Steve Dietrich, the head of the Air Quality Division, about the black smoke and the gardens dying back.

STEVE DIETRICH: That would be a question for the oil and gas commission.

BELDEN: So I called the Oil and Gas Commission and asked Interim Supervisor Bob King the same questions.

BOB KING: If the flare were emitting emissions that were unacceptable, it would be the DEQ’s issue, more than the Oil and Gas Commission.

BELDEN: Residents say they’re frustrated that regulators keep passing the buck. But DEQ and the Oil and Gas Commission say there’s no cause for alarm. They say Chesapeake isn’t violating any rules. And Steve Dietrich with DEQ says flaring is actually a good thing.

DIETRICH: A flare, such as the ones we’re talking about today, have always been considered a form of air pollution control.

BELDEN: Dietrich says you have to get rid of the gas that comes up when you’re extracting oil, and flaring is better than simply venting the gases into the atmosphere, because it destroys many harmful pollutants. In other words, flaring shouldn’t be bad for your health.

But some experts disagree.

MIRIAM ROTKIN-ELLMAN: When you flare, you burn the gases that are coming out of the well, and you turn it from a gas into a particulate. And those particulates can get into peoples’ lungs and can get into peoples’ blood stream.

BELDEN: That’s Miriam Rotkin-Ellman. She’s a public health scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, and she says even brief exposure to particulates from flaring can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and even premature death.

ROTKIN-ELLMAN: It’s definitely a problem that is worse, the closer you live to these types of facilities. Particulate matter levels do fall off. So I’m particularly worried about people who live close by to where there’s a lot of flaring.

BELDEN: In other words, people like Janice Switzer and her neighbors.

It’s hard to know exactly how worried they should be, because DEQ does not monitor air quality in Converse County. The agency says they may add a monitor in the future, but despite the sudden increase in wells, it probably wouldn’t happen until at least 2015.

Of course, there are alternatives to flaring. You can capture and store the gas. And if you have a pipeline, you can transport it and sell it. But Chesapeake doesn’t have a pipeline in that area yet. So they’ve gotten permission to keep flaring for six months, while they get more infrastructure set up.

Some residents, like Joe Ramirez, who used to work in the oil industry, say six months is too long.

JOE RAMIREZ: If they don’t have a way to take care of the gas, then knock off your damn drilling until you can take care of it, as opposed to flaring it like that.

BELDEN: But instead of putting a halt on drilling, more wells are going in. The Oil and Gas Commission has issued hundreds of new permits to drill in Converse County and expects to see even more activity in the future. And that concerns resident Kristi Mogen.

KRISTI MOGEN: That’s a lot of traffic, and that’s a lot of flares.

BELDEN: After the well blowout this spring, soil testing showed diesel-range organics on Mogen’s property. And her kids had bloody noses for a month. She says she’s worried that more health problems could show up as a result of the new drilling. She’d like to move away, but her husband Pete isn’t sure they can.

PETE MOGEN: I mean, how can we put this place up for sale, knowing that the soil has been contaminated?

BELDEN: Kristi Mogen says she’s scared. And she wants some assurance that regulators are taking the community’s concerns seriously.

MOGEN: We don’t want to be another Pinedale or Pavillion.

BELDEN: For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Willow Belden. ... Listen to Audio.


Red Deer County Residents Air Concerns At MDP Open House

'It struck me that there was a certain amount of naivete by consultants over shale gas,' said Glenn Norman of Red Deer County consultants leading each group presentation. 'People have no idea the intensity that will occur. It’s hit Mountain View County and Rocky View. It will come here as well.'

Drilling up Mountain View County, AlbertaBy Sylvia Cole, Nov 01, 2011, Mountain View Gazette 

... People were divided into groups and asked to spend 15 minutes at different stations that represented the different sections of the MDP. Hot topics included preserving agricultural land and environment.

“People need to realize that change has to happen,” said resident Joyce Sparks about the future direction of the county. Other people agreed, saying making a living off farming isn’t always enough, and some people have to take on second jobs or develop part of their land for extra revenue. People also expressed a need to provide more agriculture-related industry to provide farmers with a place to sell their product, and also providing jobs to keep young people around.

Others disagreed and said farmland needs to be left alone. They wanted to know just how far urban sprawl would reach, adding that prime soil was being eaten up by annexation from the City of Red Deer.

Other stations included residential, industrial-commercial, environment, infrastructure and culture and recreation. Environment stirred concerns from a few participants wanting to know how the county would prepare for shale gas and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Fracking is a process in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into a well at high pressure to blast loose the rock and release gas or oil.

“We’re looking at 1,000 cubic metres for fracking per well,” said Don Bester, president of Alberta Surface Rights Group, who lives in the county. He learned more about the impacts fracking has on roads and water contamination after attending a public open house at Eagle Hill in September.

“It struck me that there was a certain amount of naivete by consultants over shale gas,” said Glenn Norman of Red Deer County consultants leading each group presentation. “People have no idea the intensity that will occur. It’s hit Mountain View County and Rocky View. It will come here as well. That was probably the one thing that struck me tonight,” he said. ... more.


High Hopes for EOG's Red Deer County “Tight” Oil Wells

'The acreages west of there will potentially be living in hell for awhile.'

By Drew A. Penner, September 25, 2012, Mountain View Gazette

... Drilling Superintendent Scot Brodie, at EOG Resources, stressed the Cygnet venture is still in its early phases. “It is an interesting project,” he said. The Duvernay shale has been tapped as the “sexiest” resource frontier in Canada by some observers, and oil industry players have been watching closely.

… Companies that stand to benefit if the EOG wells prove profitable are Bonavista Energy, Celtic, Athabasca Oil Corp., Trilogy, Delphi Energy, Guide Exploration and Longview Oil Corp., among others, say officials.

Red Deer County Councillor David Hoar said EOG is using new technology at this location that reduces the cost of exploration. “I did tour it,” said Hoar. “As I understand it they’re drilling eight wells off one site.”

The opinion of county residents will vary based on individual impact, he said. “It depends who you are,” he said.

“The acreages west of there will potentially be living in hell for awhile.”

... “I think they don’t tell us everything that’s going on,”….

... Environmentalists watching shale oil plays heating up around the province say the risks involved in the necessary fracturing operation are like playing with fire. But there is little they can do at this point but advocate for safer extraction methods, says Don Bester, of the Alberta Surface Rights Group. “We know it’s coming,” said Bester. “It’s not going to be a boom. It’s going to create a big frack mess throughout Alberta.”

EOG plans to use water from wells, surface water bodies and wastewater from treatment facilities for the Cygnet fracks and is evaluating a number of private and public sources.

The average well service operation uses 100,000 cubic metres of fresh water per frack, he said, and he worries that the chemical cocktail used to stimulate the miniature fissures below ground could eventually make it up to the water table. “The contaminants in these fracks are deadly,” he said. “These are not things we want to play around with.”

... While the Energy Resources Conservation Board stresses no wells have ever tested positive for contamination due to fracturing activities in Alberta, Bester says because of the confidentiality surrounding the mixture we don’t even know what we should be testing for. ... more.


Hunting Club Contends With Spring Water Contaminations From EOG's Gas Drilling

"They found out about the spring's contamination by accident," she said, "No one -- from the driller or the state Department of Environmental Protection -- came to tell them."

By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 30, 2012

Spring water, cold as winter and clear as a windowpane, gushes out of mossy ground in a clearing sprinkled with blooms of forget-me-not next to Stone Camp, the home of the Sykesville Hunting Club in the Moshannon State Forest.

Photo: Andrew Rush/Post-Gazette - Members of the Sykesville Hunting Club in Clearfield County posted this sign near the natural spring on their hunting camp property in Moshannon State Forest. The spring was contaminated by leaks from Marcellus Shale drilling operationsThe bubbling flow has attracted generations of folks from Clearfield County and beyond, but staked into the ground now is a homemade sign bearing the warning: "Contaminated Water."

The sign seems out of place. Larry Righi certainly thinks so, even though he had a hand in putting it up months after a torn liner under one or more EOG Resources Marcellus Shale drill cuttings pits allowed leakage that contaminated groundwater feeding the spring almost two years ago.

Mr. Righi, a longtime member of the local landmark Sykesville Hunting Club like his father before him, hopes new water test results will soon give a clean bill of health to the spring, which is the club's only water source.

"We just want to be made whole, to get assurances that the contamination is gone and won't be back and the water is good to drink again," said Mr. Righi, whose hunting club has held a "permanent camp" lease since 1920 on a fraction of an acre in the 300-square-mile state forest.

"And we want to get the word out because there's lots of camps up here in the woods. ... because these drilling rigs are going to be in your backyard sooner or later."

Local watering hole

It's known as Reeds Spring on maps detailing the green expanses of the Moshannon State Forest, and it boils out of the ground into a large pothole of a pool before sloshing down a 1-foot-wide, 50-yard-long channel to a small creek, Alex Branch. The Alex Branch is a tributary of Trout Run, one of the area's better fishing creeks, which flows into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

"The spring was a major stopping point. Surrounding hunting camps came here to fill their water jugs, and it was a way to meet guys from other camps," said Tony Zaffuto, a Sykesville Hunting Club member who is originally from that Jefferson County town and now lives in DuBois, Clearfield County. "It was not unusual for people to be lined up for the water with their plastic jugs."

The spring's contamination brings into focus the concerns of many hunting camp owners, rural residents and environmentalists about the potential for groundwater contamination from development of the gassy Marcellus Shale.

...  its development also comes with significant risks to the state's water resources. Hundreds of spills, leaks, seeps, overflows and blowouts at Marcellus Shale well drilling sites and wastewater reservoirs over the last five years have contaminated groundwater and streams with chemicals and gases.

Sometimes those risks are hard to ignore. In June 2010, a "blowout" at a Marcellus gas well operated by EOG Resources (formerly Enron Oil and Gas), less than a mile from Stone Camp on forested land owned by the Punxsutawney Hunting Camp and in the same well field where the drill cutting pit leaked, spewed at least 35,000 gallons of brine and toxic fluids from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, into the air for 16 hours. The DEP shut down the company's drilling operations for 40 days statewide, and six weeks later, fined EOG and a drilling contractor a total of $400,000.

But often the leaks, overflows and spills are much less obvious, though still locally devastating.

In August 2009, Nancy Potts' brother, Sam, a stonemason, was hired by the Sykesville Hunting Club to re-point the 90-year-old, two-story flagstone cabin built by the grandfathers and fathers of many of the current club members on the permanent camp lease in the state forest.

"After working at the camp, Sam called me up and said the water tasted funny," said Ms. Potts, who has tested water affected by acid mine drainage in Clearfield County for 10 years as part of the Senior Environmental Corps and now is on the lookout for new threats to the water in the woodlands she calls the "Marcellus State Forest," in reference to Moshannon.

"They found out about the spring's contamination by accident," she said, "No one -- from the driller or the state Department of Environmental Protection -- came to tell them."

Oily water

Shortly after the stonemason's alert, Mr. Righi also noticed something different in the water at Stone Camp. "I was washing dishes and discovered an oily substance," he said. "I couldn't get them clean."

Mr. Righi called the DEP and on Aug. 25, 2009, the agency performed the first of eight water quality tests it would do at the spring over the next 16 months. The tests found higher than healthy levels of manganese, aluminum, barium, sodium, strontium, chloride and total dissolved solids. The test results show those chemical pollutants spiked to as much as 200 times safe drinking water standards in the fall of 2009 before starting to gradually decline.

But the DEP still didn't know what caused the contamination.

In September, Mr. Zaffuto said he was talking to an EOG driller who told him the rocky ground on the Punxsutawney Hunting Camp property had caused pit liners to tear under three of five ponds that held drilling waste.

"They knew, but EOG didn't notify the camp members or the DEP," said Mr. Zaffuto, who notes that he continues to support Marcellus Shale development if it's done right.

Investigations by the DEP and the state Fish and Boat Commission subsequently determined that several accidental discharges of contaminated water and fluids at EOG's Marcellus operations -- including leakage from the pit over a two-month period from August through October 2009 -- had caused the contamination of Reeds Spring.

A small hole in a drilling wastewater hose that, according to the Fish and Boat Commission settlement report, allowed gas and flowback water to leak and percolate onto the ground and into Little Laurel Run from June 3 through Aug. 16 also may have contributed to the contamination at the spring and in the creek. EOG reported another accident on Oct. 12, 2009, when almost 8,000 gallons of water and fracking fluids leaked from a tank and into the Alex Branch and Trout Run.

In a DEP consent agreement of Aug. 31, 2010, settling the pollution charges from all three accidental discharges, EOG paid a penalty of $30,000. Just five weeks ago, EOG agreed to pay the Fish and Boat Commission a $208,625 settlement in lieu of civil damages for its pollution of Alex Run, Little Laurel Run, both designated "High Quality" trout waters, and Reeds Spring. EOG paid $99,125 of that for damaging the spring. ... more.


EOG Says U.S. Fracking Rule to Cost $1.5 Billion a Year

“The proposed rule is unnecessary, excessive and requires actions that no state currently regulating oil and natural gas production deems necessary”

The rules for disclosing chemicals and well integrity were crafted after environmentalists and homeowners said hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may taint drinking water supplies or cause earthquakes

By Kasia Klimasinska - Sep 7, 2012, Bloomberg 

The Obama administration’s plan to tighten regulation of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas on public land may cost more than 20 times U.S. estimates, energy companies and local governments said.

EOG Resources Inc. (EOG), the top oil producer in a Texas shale formation, and officials from Wyoming and Utah cite a study by John Dunham and Associates that said it will cost $253,839 per well to meet the proposal for disclosing chemicals being used and certifying the well is isolated to avoid leaks. The Bureau of Land Management estimated costs at $11,833 per well.

“The proposed rule is unnecessary, excessive and requires actions that no state currently regulating oil and natural gas production deems necessary,” Eric Dille, government affairs director for Houston-based EOG, said in comments posted on a U.S. website Aug. 31. “The proposed rule will also place undue economic burdens and time delays on independent oil and natural- gas producers that will inevitably drive many smaller companies away from exploring for oil and natural gas on federal lands.”

The rules for disclosing chemicals and well integrity were crafted after environmentalists and homeowners said hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may taint drinking water supplies or cause earthquakes. ... more.


Fracking Wells' Air Emissions Pose Health Risks, Study Finds

'The greatest health impact corresponds to the relatively short-term, but high emission, well completion period.'

Can you spot the fracking operation? December 2012, Mountain View County, Alberta CanadaPublished on March 19, 2012, News-Medical.Net

In a new study, researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health have shown that air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing or fracking may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites.

"Our data show that it is important to include air pollution in the national dialogue on natural gas development that has focused largely on water exposures to hydraulic fracturing," said Lisa McKenzie, Ph.D., MPH, lead author of the study and research associate at the Colorado School of Public Health.

The study will be published in an upcoming edition of Science of the Total Environment.

Same fracking operation. December 2012, Mountain View County, Alberta CanadaThe report, based on three years of monitoring, found a number of potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene. Benzene has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a known carcinogen. Other chemicals included heptane, octane and diethylbenzene but information on their toxicity is limited.

"Our results show that the non-cancer health impacts from air emissions due to natural gas development is greater for residents living closer to wells," the report said. "The greatest health impact corresponds to the relatively short-term, but high emission, well completion period."

Same fracking operation. Unfortunately the quiet of the rural countryside was shattered and the songs of Christmas Carolers were drowned out by the horsepower ... and we don't mean the sleigh-pulling kind. December 2012, Mountain View County, Alberta CanadaThat's due to exposure to trimethylbenzenes, aliaphatic hydrocarbons, and xylenes, all of which have neurological and/or respiratory effects, the study said. Those effects could include eye irritation, headaches, sore throat and difficulty breathing. 

"We also calculated higher cancer risks for residents living nearer to the wells as compared to those residing further [away]," the report said. "Benzene is the major contributor to lifetime excess cancer risk from both scenarios."

... McKenzie analyzed ambient air sample data collected from monitoring stations by the Garfield County Department of Public Health and Olsson Associates Inc. She used standard EPA methodology to estimate non-cancer health impacts and excess lifetime cancer risks for hydrocarbon exposure.

McKenzie noted that EPA standards are designed to be public health proactive and may overestimate risks.

"However, there wasn't data available on all the chemicals emitted during the well development process," she said. "If there had been, then it is entirely possible the risks would have been underestimated."

The report concludes that health risks are greater for people living closest to wells and urges a reduction in those air emissions. ... more.


The same fracking operation goes on into the night. December 2012, Mountain View County, Alberta Canada



Wyoming Air Pollution Worse Than Los Angeles Due To Gas Drilling

"They're trading off health for profit. It's outrageous. We're not a Third World country"

Huffington Post - By Mead Gruver, 03/ 8/11, AP

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Wyoming, famous for its crisp mountain air and breathtaking, far-as-the-eye-can-see vistas, is looking a lot like smoggy Los Angeles these days because of a boom in natural gas drilling.

Folks who live near the gas fields in the western part of this outdoorsy state are complaining of watery eyes, shortness of breath and bloody noses because of ozone levels that have exceeded what people in L.A. and other major cities wheeze through on their worst pollution days.

"It is scary to me personally. I never would have guessed in a million years you would have that kind of danger here," Debbee Miller, a manager at a Pinedale snowmobile dealership, said Monday. 

... In the Upper Green River Basin, where at least one daycare center called off outdoor recess and state officials have urged the elderly to avoid strenuous outdoor activity, some wonder if they've made a bargain with the devil. Two days last week, ozone levels in the gas-rich basin rose above the highest levels recorded in the biggest U.S. cities last year.

"They're trading off health for profit. It's outrageous. We're not a Third World country," said Elaine Crumpley, a retired science teacher who lives just outside Pinedale.

Preliminary data show ozone levels last Wednesday got as high as 124 parts per billion. That's two-thirds higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's maximum healthy limit of 75 parts per billion and above the worst day in Los Angeles all last year, 114 parts per billion, according to EPA records. Ozone levels in the basin reached 116 on March 1 and 104 on Saturday.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality urged the elderly, children and people with respiratory conditions to avoid strenuous or extended activity outdoors. 

... The gas industry has drilled hundreds of wells in the basin over the past decade and made the basin one of the top gas-producing areas in the U.S.

"Ultimately it comes down to accountability," said Linda Baker, director of the Upper Green River Alliance. "It doesn't seem to me the companies are being very accountable to the residents here." High ozone, she said, gave her a constant nosebleed three days last week.

Crumpley, 68, reported having difficulty on walks and showshoe trips. "You feel a tightness in your chest. You seem to be less able to hold in air. My eyes burn and water constantly, and I've had nosebleed problems," she said.

Drilling of new wells, routine maintenance and gas-field equipment release substances that contribute to ozone pollution, including volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. 

... Crumpley said the warnings to stay indoors are hard to take.

"We're all outdoor people here. We don't live inside," she said. "That's why we chose to be here." ... more.



Rural Impact: What to Expect from the Gas Industry Part 2 with Dr. Theo Colborn of TEDX (2007)



Rural Impact: What to Expect from the Gas Industry Part 3 with Dr. Theo Colborn of TEDX (2007) 



In North Dakota and Nationwide, A Boom in Health Problems Accompanies Fracking

In 2009, state officials told the local press that the new oil development appeared to be releasing far more chemicals into the air than conventional drilling.

By Nicholas Kusnetz, May 21, 2012, OnEarth

Soon after, the water from a well they used for their animals started bubbling, “like 7UP.” Then the creek behind the house started bubbling, too, with a frothy film forming on the water’s surface and white residue appearing on the creek bank. The Schilkes started hauling water in from town.

… There are now dozens of wells in the area, including four within a mile of their home, each sporting gas flares billowing smoke into the sky.

… The resource is worth $55 million a day, at current market prices, and generates $5 million a day in state tax revenue, according to state officials.

… In 2009, state officials told the local press that the new oil development appeared to be releasing far more chemicals into the air than conventional drilling.

… Although a handful of North Dakota residents have complained about odors or health effects from drilling near their homes, the Schilkes are the first in the region to report such widespread and sustained health problems. But while their symptoms may be new to North Dakota, they mirror those reported in recent years in gas fields from the Rockies to the Appalachians. Residents of several states have experienced a suite of symptoms – including rashes, congestion, dizziness, nausea, and even cancer — that they say began when drilling and fracking came to their neighborhoods.

… In acknowledgement of the risks, the EPA issued new rules this month aimed at reducing airborne emissions from fracking operations. But an EPA spokesperson told OnEarth that;

the rules apply only to gas wells, so they won’t affect operations at North Dakota’s oil wells — even though they produce similar emissions to natural-gas fracking.

On the whole, state and federal agencies have been slow to respond to the growing concerns about public health, says Bernard Goldstein, professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health, who notes that these agencies haven’t done the research needed to ensure that shale drilling is safe to nearby residents.

Goldstein published a paper in January arguing that public health officials are being left out of the debate over how to regulate drilling, despite evidence of an emerging and indeterminate threat. “Can I point to a specific disease that has been caused by the shale drilling? No I cannot,” he says. But that’s in part because no state or federal agency has been systematically tracking drilling-related health complaints. ... more.


Partial Transcript from CBC News Clip : Cochrane Residents Meet to Discuss Fracking Concerns

October 2012, Rocky View County Alberta - Night frack, as seen from Hwy 567 and Lochend Road... More than 2 dozen residents gathered here tonight to learn about the fracking process, they're concerned about what's going on in their neighbourhoods, in their backyards, and for some ... what's happening to their health.

"A lot of women in the neighborhood have lost their hair, I'm wearing a wig, I used to have long blond hair. About 3 years ago, about the time the fracking started I started noticing that I was losing hair.

Nielle Hawkwood is just one of the ranchers who has shown up tonight, they're concerned about how close the wells are to their homes and down underneath their back yards.

"We've felt tremors in our area, you're supposed to not feel any tremors that would be caused from fracking, but we have felt them at the surface."


Black Water and Brazenness: Gas Drilling Disrupts Lives, Endangers Health in Bradford County, PA

By Iris Marie Bloom, June 16, 2011, Protecting Our Waters

Local people such as Monika Osborn worry about the proximity of gas drilling operations to schools, waterways, and to their own homes.  ”I’m surrounded by 28 gas wells,” Osborn said last weekend, referring to them as “monsters.”  She said she was “nearly suffocated” by a wave of fumes coming from a drilling operation last week.  Osborn, who has refused to sign a lease, mentions quietly that she is losing her hair, but hasn’t reported this to any authorities. Mistrust of the industry, of the PA Deparment of Environmental Protection (DEP), and of everyone in government who is supposed to be looking out for people’s health and well-being, runs rampant in Bradford County, as I found out early. ... more.


Fracking Poisoning Families At Alarming Rate: Report

“Twenty-two households reported that pets and livestock began to have symptoms (such as seizures or losing hair) or suddenly fell ill and died after gas development began nearby”

By Common Dreams, October 19, 2012

Residents living near gas fracking sites suffer an increasingly high rate of health problems now linked to pollutants used in the gas extraction process, according to a new report released Thursday.

The study, conducted by Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, pulled from a survey of 108 Pennsylvania residents in 14 counties, and a series of air and water tests. The results showed close to 70 percent of participants reported an increase in throat irritation and roughly 80 percent suffered from sinus problems after natural gas extraction companies moved to their areas. The symptoms intensify the closer the residents are to the fracking sites.

“We use water for nothing other than flushing the commode,” said Janet McIntyre referring to the now toxic levels of water on her land, which neighbors a fracking site. McIntyre said her entire family, including their pets, suffered from a wide array of health problems including projectile vomiting and skin rashes, indicative of other families’ symptoms in the areas surveyed. Other symptoms include sinus, respiratory, fatigue, and mood problems.

“Twenty-two households reported that pets and livestock began to have symptoms (such as seizures or losing hair) or suddenly fell ill and died after gas development began nearby,” the report finds.

After taking water and air samples, Earthworks detected chemicals that have been linked to oil and gas operations and also directly connected to many of the symptoms reported in the survey on the resident’s properties. This study showed a higher concentration of ethylbenzene and xylene, volatile compounds found in petroleum hydrocarbons, at the households as compared to control sites.

For too long, the oil and gas industry and state regulators have dismissed community members’ health complaints as ‘false’ or ‘anecdotal’,” said Nadia Steinzor, the project’s lead author. “With this research, they cannot credibly ignore communities any longer.”

According to a separate report released earlier this month, EPA regulators are having trouble keeping up with the “rapid pace” of shale oil and gas development, due to a lack in resources, staff, data and a number of legal loopholes. ... more.


The Homestretch: Fracking Concerns (audio)

'The Lochend area has wells that were vertically drilled in the 1980's, a large number of them, around a hundred or more ...'

The CBC's Jenn Blair talks about residents in the Cochrane area concerned over this controversial practice. She looks at both sides of the issue. ... go to audio clip.


LIPG Member TriOil Commences Propane Fracks To Existing Lochend Area Vertical Wells

TOL successfully executed its first liquid propane gas ('LPG') fracture stimulation in one of our existing cased vertical wells at Lochend ... we are in the planning stages for a second LPG fracture stimulation in another one of our 30 vertical wellbores. ... more.


Fracking with Propane—The Gas Companies’ Latest Tactic to Frack New York

... Our lawyers have advised us that New York law does not permit fracking with LPG because given its significant risk of adverse environmental impacts any application to use it would first require its own supplemental-generic or site-specific environmental impact statement. It is unfathomable that the state would consider allowing a process that forces explosive liquid propane gas underground under high pressure without first doing the proper environmental review.

EcoWatch, 04-10-2012

What we do know is that this dangerous new technology resulted in two explosions/fires in 2011—one left three workers hospitalized and one worker with second degree burns—and the second, a flash fire, injured about a dozen workers, two of whom had to be evacuated to the hospital by helicopter. In a third incident, GasFrac Energy Services of Alberta Canada, the company who pioneered this technology, had to shut down the company for two weeks in January 2012 while they investigated a fire at a well site.

GasFrac has touted fracking with liquid propane as a major breakthrough because it eliminates the need for the millions of gallons of water that are needed to frack each well, however, it is not at all clear that fracking with liquid propane gas is any less threatening to the environment or to people’s health than water based fracking. There has been no independent empirical analysis or scientific studies done of the complete life cycle of the process and the only information about it comes from the company’s marketing materials, which claim, for instance, that it is a “green” alternative to water based approaches.

Also, the elimination of water does not eliminate the need to truck this highly explosive gas to the well sites, the need for chemicals in the fracking solution or the threat of air pollution. It doesn’t solve the problem of methane leaks and its highly combustible composition brings new levels of danger for both workers and residents. For more information on the dangers of propane fracking, see our website. ... more.


Cochrane Residents Meet to Discuss Fracking Concerns

'We felt that we were living in a nice healthy area. We raised our children here. I'm glad my sons no longer live at home.'

CBC News, Sep 27, 2012

Local ranchers say they are noticing tremors in the ground, cancer in their animals and odd health side effects.

Area resident Nielle Hawkwood says it's heartbreaking.

'We've ranched here for 32 years, and you know we don't make a lot of money ranching but we love the lifestyle,' she said. 'We felt that we were living in a nice healthy area. We raised our children here. I'm glad my sons no longer live at home.'

The group — Cochrane Area Under Siege Coalition — say they want a moritorium on fracking until the oil and gas companies can prove it's safe. ... more.


Air Pollution and Natural Gas Operations

An Exploratory Study of Air Quality near Natural Gas Operations

This paper was peer-reviewed and accepted for publication by Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal (November 9, 2012).


This exploratory study was designed to assess air quality in a rural western Colorado area where residences and gas wells co-exist.

Sampling was conducted before, during, and after drilling and hydraulic fracturing of a new natural gas well pad.

Weekly air sampling for 1 year revealed that the number of non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) and their concentrations were highest during the initial drilling phase and did not increase during hydraulic fracturing in this closed-loop system.

Methylene chloride, a toxic solvent not reported in products used in drilling or hydraulic fracturing, was detected 73% of the time; several times in high concentrations. A literature search of the health effects of the NMHCs revealed that many had multiple health effects, including 30 that affect the endocrine system, which is susceptible to chemical impacts at very low concentrations, far less than government safety standards.

Selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were at concentrations greater than those at which prenatally exposed children in urban studies had lower developmental and IQ scores. The human and environmental health impacts of the NMHCs, which are ozone precursors, should be examined further given that the natural gas industry is now operating in close proximity to human residences and public lands.


Colborn T, Schultz K, Herrick L, and Kwiatkowski C. 2012 (in press). An exploratory study of air quality near natural gas operations. Hum Ecol Risk Assess.

Download the article (PDF)

Findings and Implications (PDF)

Health Effects References (PDF)


Researchers: Gas Industry Secrecy Obstructs Public Health

'...these people are silenced by industry-mandated non-disclosure agreements in lawsuits as well as leases. As their neighbors struggle to contend with these impacts, they are unable to share their knowledge. Whole communities are impacted as a result.'

By Pam Kasey, April 30, 2012, Updated May 30, 2012, State Journal

In a Pennsylvania court case over gas industry secrecy, a group of doctors, researchers and advocates filed April 30 to support newspapers seeking information about the health impacts of gas development.

It’s the “tip of the iceberg,” said Matthew Gerhart, staff attorney at the environmental nonprofit law firm Earthjustice, in a conference call after filing the amicus brief in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Western District.

“We filed an exhibit with our brief listing dozens of cases in which individuals allege that gas development has harmed their health,” Gerhart said, “and in case after case, the industry’s playbook is to limit disclosure of information through the use of protective orders and confidential settlements.”

The initial case against four gas industry companies and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was brought by Stephanie and Chris Hallowich. After moving their family to a farm in Mount Pleasant, Pa., the Hallowiches became surrounded by gas wells on their property and gas processing facilities nearby.

The Hallowiches and their two children said they began experiencing headaches, nosebleeds, burning eyes and sore throats.

When contacting state regulators and nearby companies did not help, the family sued in 2010, settling with the companies in 2011 and abandoning their home. As a condition of the settlement, the Hallowiches signed a non-disclosure agreement.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Observer-Reporter of Washington, Pa., are seeking to overturn the court order sealing the record in the case.

Represented by Earthjustice, a group of doctors, researchers and advocates filed an amicus brief April 30 supporting the newspapers.

The group includes Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility; Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy; individuals Bernard D. Goldstein, Walter Tsou, Jerome A. Paulson, William Rom, Mehernosh P. Khan, Sandra Steingraber, Simona Perry, Robert Oswald, Michelle Bamberger, Kathryn Vennie; and Earthworks.

... “People living in communities where the gas industry operates have important firsthand knowledge of the impacts of gas development. But time and again, these people are silenced by industry-mandated non-disclosure agreements in lawsuits as well as leases,” said Simona Perry, a research scientist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“As their neighbors struggle to contend with these impacts, they are unable to share their knowledge. Whole communities are impacted as a result.” ... more.




Stephanie Hallowich Discusses Water Issues Due to Hydraulic Fracturing (2010)



Appeals Court Agrees With Newspapers In Sealed Fracking Case

Hallowich v. Range Resources is one of the most closely watched cases involving claims of health impacts and property damage against a Marcellus Shale gas driller.

By Susan Phillips, December 7, 2012, StateImpact

A Pennsylvania appeals court has ruled in favor of two newspapers seeking to unseal court records in a fracking contamination case. Hallowich v. Range Resources is one of the most closely watched cases involving claims of health impacts and property damage against a Marcellus Shale gas driller.

But when the case was settled, the Court of Common Pleas sealed all the records.

Reporters from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had been barred by court employees from observing a hearing that had been held several days before it was listed on the public docket. The paper’s publisher sued, and was later joined by another daily newspaper, the Observer-Reporter. ... more. 


Judges Rule Fracking Secrecy Court Case Must Be Heard

“We’re glad that the court ruled against industry’s attempt to block this case from proceeding. As long as the gas industry continues to hide chemical information, fight journalists seeking the truth, and silence families to prevent them from speaking out, it will never gain the public’s trust – and rightly so”

By Steve Mocarsky, December 7, 2012, Times-Leader

HARRISBURG – A panel of appeals court judges ruled today that a court case over gas industry secrecy must be heard by a trial court, despite objections from the gas industry.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Observer-Reporter are seeking to intervene to overturn a court order sealing the record in a case in which a Pennsylvania family sued several gas companies over property damage and health impacts related to air and water pollution from nearby natural gas operations.

The gas companies are fighting to keep the records out of the public eye. As a result of today’s ruling, the newspapers will have the opportunity to present their argument to the trial court that the record should be unsealed so that the public can access information regarding this case.

“We’re glad that the court ruled against industry’s attempt to block this case from proceeding. As long as the gas industry continues to hide chemical information, fight journalists seeking the truth, and silence families to prevent them from speaking out, it will never gain the public’s trust – and rightly so,” said Earthjustice attorney Matthew Gerhart.

“Instead of obstructing access to information, gas companies should be disclosing the information necessary to understand the health impacts of fracking,” Gerhart said.

The newspapers seek to unseal a settlement agreement between homeowner (plaintiffs) and fracking companies (defendants).

The parties of the underlying matter are plaintiffs Chris and Stephanie Hollowich, husband and wife, and defendants Range Resources Corp., Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream, Markwest Energy Partners LP, Markwest Energy Group LLC.

The judges note that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was also named as a defendant in the suit that the Hallowiches filed but has not taken part in the litigation and they do not refer to DEP when referring the the “defendants.”

Two Post-Gazette reporters showed up on the day of a settlement hearing involving the couple’s minor children in August 2011 and requested to attend, but that request was denied by the trial court.

The companies filed a joint motion to seal the record, which they and the plaintiffs agreed to, and the trial court approved and filed an order to seal the record on the same day.

On Sept. 6, the Post-Gazette filed a motion to intervene and unseal the record and a week later, the Observer-Reporter filed a petition to intervene and joined The Post-Gazette’s motion to unseal the record. The petitions invoked the Pennsylvania Constitution’s provision, “All courts shall be open,” and the U.S. Constitution First Amendment’s right of access to civil proceedings.

The court denied the newspapers’ petitions on the grounds of timeliness.

The newspapers argued that the settlement hearing was scheduled for Aug. 26, 2011, but the parties agreed to meet instead on Aug. 24, 2011, and the date was never changed on the docket. Therefore, although they filed a motion after the hearing was over, there was no way they could have filed prior to the case being closed because the trial court sealed the reord on the same day.

The appeals judges agreed and ordered a hearing on unsealing the case record.

The newspapers were joined in the case earlier this year by a group of doctors, scientists, researchers and advocates seeking access to information that they say could shed light on the health impacts of gas development, including the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

Represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, the group — Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy, Dr. Bernard D. Goldstein, Dr. Walter Tsou, Dr. Jerome A. Paulson, Dr. William Rom, Dr. Mehernosh P. Khan, Dr. Sandra Steingraber, Dr. Simona Perry, Dr. Robert Oswald, Dr. Michelle Bamberger, Kathryn Vennie, and Earthworks — filed an amicus brief in April supporting the newspapers.




Split Estate (2009) 

Sadly, Elizabeth "Chris" Mobaldi, featured in Split Estate, passed away November 14, 2010.


Woman Who Lived Near Gas Fields Dies

Elizabeth Mobaldi became sick around the time rigs moved into her neighborhood near Rifle

John Colson, Post Independent Staff, Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado, November 17, 2010

A woman who grew gravely ill after living near gas drilling activities in the Rifle area has died in Grand Junction, to where she and her husband moved to get away from the rigs.

Elizabeth “Chris” Mobaldi, 63, died on Nov. 14, at 4:40 a.m., after a lengthy battle with a rare and persistent tumor of the pituitary gland, according to her husband, Steve.

She recently underwent her third surgery related to the tumor, Steve added, and complications of that surgery led to her death.

A gas industry spokesman, David Ludlam, wrote in an e-mail about Mobaldi's death: “The West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association is an organization, but we're made up of people. And on behalf of our membership, we offer condolences to the Mobaldi family. Offering anything beyond reverence, at this time, would be a great disrespect to her family and community.”

Industry representatives have long argued that there is no conclusive evidence that proximity to gas wells has adverse effects on the environment or on human health.

From 1993 to 2004, the Mobaldis had lived near Rifle, on County Road 320 south of the Colorado River, Steve Mobaldi recalled in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

According to testimony by Mobaldi before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in Washington, D.C., the couple suffered symptoms such as headaches, burning eyes and skin, which they believed were related to the drilling rigs as close as 300 feet from their home.

The first of Chris' three pituitary tumors appeared in 2001, roughly four years after gas rigs went up near their home, Steve Mobaldi said. At the time, he said, the rigs were operated by Barrett Resources, which later was sold to the Williams Cos.

The couple moved to Grand Junction in 2004.

Chris Mobaldi, aside from her other symptoms, developed rashes, blisters and a rare malady known as “foreign accent syndrome,” a speech abnormality that is quite rare.

According to published sources, only 60 cases of the condition had been reported as of 2009, and it typically occurs as a side-effect of severe brain injury such as head trauma or stroke.

A physician who treated Chris Mobaldi, Dr. Kendall Gerdes of Colorado Springs, said, “When I first met her ... I thought it must be some kind of Eastern European thing.”

Asked if he agrees with Steve Mobaldi's assertion that the symptoms are in some way related to exposure to gas drilling activities, Gerdes said simply, “I do.”

But, he continued, this conclusion is based on his understanding of the couple and their story, and that “there's not a lot of testing you can do that will prove or disprove that. I think that [Mobaldi's exposure to drilling chemicals] was causative. I am simply looking at time, cause and effect relationships.” 

He said tests indicated that Chris Mobaldi was “vulnerable” to toxic influences “because she did not detoxify as rapidly as other people,” meaning that chemicals accumulate more readily in her fatty tissues.

The fact that others have reported similar symptoms they believe are caused by proximity to gas rigs, has prompted some doctors, including Gerdes, to call for greater investigation of the health effects of gas drilling. ... more.


Angle Energy Moves to Quell Fracking Fears

'Fracking isn’t new. It has just hit the media more.'

By Johnnie Bachusky, Mountain View Gazette, Jun 12, 2012 

With a goal to counter increasing media attention on the potential dangers of horizontal fracking, Calgary-based Angle Energy Inc. resumed its own aggressive public relations campaign last week with an open house and dinner for dozens of county residents and stakeholders.

“We take the concerns very seriously. Certainly there has been some very high profile stories in the news,” said Heather Christie-Burns, Angle Energy’s president and chief operating officer who attended the June 5 open house at the Didsbury Agricultural Society Grounds.

“We are hoping for questions. Our goal is to understand whatever everyone is wondering, what they are thinking. The press is certainly a big driver of information that causes concerns and questions.”

Angle Energy, a publicly traded company whose operations are solely in Alberta, has been conducting horizontal fracking operations west and north of Didsbury in what is known as the Harmattan field since 2005. There are currently up to 70 well sites in this area and about 130 kilometres of pipeline.

Company representatives made a fracking presentation to Didsbury town council in April. Last week it was time to reach out to residents and stakeholders, many of them currently leasing out sites to Angle for horizontal fracking operations, which generate the same amount of production as eight old-style vertical sites while leaving less of a surface foot print.

And while the open house and dinner attracted up to 75 area residents the mood was more upbeat than one of concern over fracking, a controversial hydraulic process that blasts open tight oil, gas and coal formations with high pressurized amounts of water, sand and chemical to release methane or light oil.

“There are no fears. It is safe. When there are that many miles down it is not hurting us,” said county resident Margaret Hosegood, who recently had four wells drilled on her property and attended the open house last week. “They can come and punch all the wells they want to on there and frack them.”

The issue came to full public attention last January when an oil well blowout from a hydraulic fracking operation on a farmer’s field west of Innisfail resulted in the messy release of fracturing fluid and some crude oil. Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) was forced to launch an investigation.

“Fracking isn’t new. It has just hit the media more. We are trying to explain ourselves on how we are protecting ground water and what procedures we follow to make sure we follow regulations,” said Graham Cormack, Angle’s vice president of operations, who was at last week’s open house.

“Because always, the fear is the unknown. That is human nature – fear of the unknown. When people think of fracturing, they don’t know about it. They have fear about it. We want people to know what fracturing is all about.” ... more.


B.C. Oil and Gas Regulator Links Fracking to 272 Earthquakes

The report said no quakes were recorded in the area prior to April 2009.

By The Canadian Press, September 7, 2012

CALGARY — A spate of small earthquakes in B.C.’s remote northeastern corner were caused by a controversial technique used to extract natural gas from shale rock, says a report by the province’s energy regulator.

... “The investigation has concluded that the events observed within remote and isolated areas of the Horn River Basin between 2009 and 2011 were caused by fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing in proximity to pre-existing faults,” the agency said in a recent report.

... Studies have also linked fracking to earthquakes around shale formations in England and Oklahoma.

The 38 events detected by Natural Resources Canada ranged between magnitudes of 2.2 and 3.8 on the Richter scale.

... Another 234 events were picked up by industry-deployed devices in the area that are capable of picking up much smaller shakes than Natural Resources Canada’s equipment can.

... Only one quake was felt at the surface near where the fracking was taking place.

... The report said no quakes were recorded in the area prior to April 2009.

It said all of the events began after fracking took place. The quakes happened within five kilometres of fracking operations and within 300 metres of the depth at which the rock was being fractured.

... The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers welcomed the report’s recommendations, acknowledging that seismic activity associated with oil and gas extraction is of concern to the public.

... “Continuing our record of no harm to people or structures is paramount, as is supporting geoscience that can assure landowners and the public hydraulic fracturing can and will continue safely.” ... more.


Hot Springs Vanish After B.C. Quake

Seismologist Michael Bostock said it’s very likely there was a change in the stress patterns underlying the region when the quake occurred, and that impacts how fluids migrate through the earth’s crust.

Fractures that were previously opened may have closed, and new cracks may have formed, he said.

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press, November 1, 2012, Travel.ca

Mother Nature has apparently turned off the taps for a series of idyllic hot springs on a remote west coast B.C. island following Saturday’s 7.7 magnitude earthquake and aftershocks.

Four naturally-sourced pools on the tiny Hot Springs Island in Gwaii Haanas National Park, which have provided spiritual and medicinal comforts to locals and tourists for generations, have completely run dry.

“They were wonderful, you would sit up above the cliff and watch the whales frolicking in the distance while getting nice and warm in the pool,” said Barb Rowsell, a tour guide with Anvil Cove Charters.

“Now there’s no water, gone,” she said, adding perhaps it’s a warning nudge from the earth.

“‘Hey you guys — behave yourselves a bit better. I’m going to take away some of your goodies.”

The springs, part of a Haida Heritage Site, have been used for decades by the local First Nations people to cook and gather seafood, and also because they are considered to offer healing properties. They were also known to alleviate the aches and pains of sailors and kayakers, sea-faring tourists and campers from the region, as well as commercial fishermen.

The pools were contained in rough-hewn, manmade stone walls and varied in size, with the smallest soaker just over two metres wide and the largest more than seven metres. Waders would find the water reached their waist.

Only 12 people are permitted on the island at a time.

Parks Supt. Ernie Gladstone took the three-hour zodiac boat journey to the island on Wednesday to investigate rumours the beloved wells had run dry.

“It was quite disturbing going ashore,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

“Normally when you approach the island you can see steam rising out of the pools, or rising out of the overflows or even some of the thermal meadows. But that was no longer visible.”

The epicentre of the main earthquake to rock the region on Saturday was about 30 to 40 kilometres from the island, Gladstone said. One aftershock, which had a magnitude between four and five, was less than one kilometre away.

“Right now we’re assuming this is a result of the earthquake activity over the weekend and subsequent aftershocks,” he said.

... Members from the Canadian Geological Survey are now trying to determine more precisely why the springs have stopped flowing, how the earthquake may have been involved, and whether the plug is permanent.

Seismologist Michael Bostock said it’s very likely there was a change in the stress patterns underlying the region when the quake occurred, and that impacts how fluids migrate through the earth’s crust.

Fractures that were previously opened may have closed, and new cracks may have formed, he said.

“Certain pathways are no longer accessible by the water, and the earthquake may have damage and created other pathways through which is might have flown,” said the earth and ocean sciences professor at the University of B.C.

He said it is possible the springs could return.

“There are a lot of question marks.”

... Rowsell said her clients considered the naturally-beautiful springs to be among the best in the world.

“They are hot-springs connoisseurs and they say these are No. 1 that they’ve ever found,” she said.

“It’s going to be sorely missed.” ... more.


Haida Gwaii Earthquake Shuts Off Popular Hot Springs

It was not just the three famous pools that were affected when the earth shifted Saturday.

“There are other places on the island where water bubbles but there’s no water anywhere” 

By Frank Luba, The Province, November 1, 2012

Saturday’s earthquake in Haida Gwaii appears to have claimed a victim — the well-known hot springs in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site.

A dried-up hot spring on Hot Spring Island in Gwaii Haanas National Park after an earthquake in late October, 2012, that appears to have cut off the water source for the tourist attractions. (Submitted, Parks Canada)The three pools commonly accessed by visitors to Hot Spring Island, or Gandll K’in Gwaayaay, are no longer flowing or hot, according to area resident Tassilo Goetz Hanisch.

He stopped at the island late Tuesday to find the pools empty and thought they might have been drained for cleaning, as happens occasionally. But he went to the pools the next day and found they still weren’t operating.

“Normally, you could hear water bubbling but there was nothing to be heard,” said Hanisch, who lives on Kunghit Island, where he operates the Rose Harbour Guest House.

“No trickle, not a drop,” he said. “It’s just dried up, green mud.

“It’s going to be a huge impact.”

He could only find one place where the rocks were slightly warm.

Hanisch said a rare species of bat lives near the pool.

“It can only survive because of the hot water,” he said.

There will also be an impact to tourism.

“It’s going to hurt things,” he said of the springs disappearing. “It was certainly one of the highlights.”

It was not just the three famous pools that were affected when the earth shifted Saturday.

“There are other places on the island where water bubbles but there’s no water anywhere,” he said. ... more.




 Colorado Community Voice (2008): The Fitzgeralds

'... we've got the woman whose faucet turned out water that was 160 degrees because they moved the hot springs up by injecting the water and forcing it up, ... but all these things ... the energy companies still don't even admit that they cause these problems ... even though they bought the people out, took the houses down, paid 'em everything, got 'em out as fast as they could ... they make agreements with people where they're not allowed to say how much money they got for the destruction they've caused and so people don't really notice it ... what the drilling has caused ...' ... more at above video. 


In Cochrane, Area Landowners Have Reported Broken Windows and Cracked Foundations After Extensive Fracking Operations for Shale Oil

'We [ERCB] don't have any correlation between hydraulic fracturing and clusters of earthquakes you can feel.'

'Big Hill Springs is located northwest of Calgary, Alberta at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The main attraction is a series of small waterfalls that flow year-round over rocky terraces covered with a lush growth of shrubs and grasses; the park is also the site of an historic fish hatchery and Alberta's first commercial creamery.'By Andrew Nikiforuk, 23 Feb 2012, TheTyee.ca

... Hill said that there had been reports of earthquakes associated with hydraulic fracturing near Cochrane, Alberta but no definitive correlation.

"We don't have any correlation between hydraulic fracturing and clusters of earthquakes you can feel." In Cochrane, area landowners have reported broken windows and cracked foundations after extensive fracking operations for shale oil.

Hill said there are approximately 100 fluid injection wells that pump fracking waste water from oil and gas site two miles into the earth. These facilities have been associated with strong earthquake activity in British Columbia, Ohio, Arkansas and Texas. But not in Alberta, said Hill.

... Despite a major increase in horizontal multi-stage fracking in oil shale formations (some 3,300 wells since 2008), the province has not allotted more money for earthquake, groundwater, gas migration or wellbore integrity monitoring. (The Alberta Geological Survey recently beefed up seismic monitoring after dozens of earthquakes a decade in the province turned into hundreds after 1985.)

"Nothing specific" has been set aside for additional monitoring admitted Hill. ... more.



CAPP Trots Out Voluntary Guidelines For Members Following Media Coverage Of 272 B.C. Fracking Earthquakes In A 2 Year Span and Numerous Fracking Earthquake Complaints From Cochrane Area Landowners Since 2011 

Alberta's Energy Minister Ken Hughes isn't too concerned the guidelines were written by industry.

"While they've developed guidelines, clearly the Energy Resources Conservation Board is the ultimate authority and the new energy regulator will be looking at this”

Cochrane Resident Worries New Fracking Guidelines Too Weak

CBC News Posted: Nov 30, 2012

A Calgary-area rancher says Canada's oil and gas producers' new guidelines for hydraulic fracking don't go far enough.

The rules — which are voluntary — are supposed to address the risk of earthquakes.

On his ranch near Cochrane, Howard Hawkwood said he’s experienced many tremors on his property.

Hawkwood said they started after oil and gas companies started fracking not far from his property.

"I was in my horse barn, all of a sudden the horse barn started to tremble, I had a horse in there and he spooked," said Hawkwood.

This week, the industry unveiled voluntary guidelines for fracking and earthquakes. They call for procedures to be in place to monitor and mitigate seismic activity.

Alberta's Energy Minister Ken Hughes isn't too concerned the guidelines were written by industry.

"While they've developed guidelines, clearly the Energy Resources Conservation Board is the ultimate authority and the new energy regulator will be looking at this,” said Hughes.

For his part, Hawkwood says he’s disappointed.

"I'm really worried because they're going to write their own rules and that's it, they will just absolutely ignore the rest of us, they don't care, they're just after the almighty dollar,” he says.

Hawkwood expects the tremors will continue.

He's been told the number of wells in the area is set to triple to 150.


United States Geological Survey Lists Recent Southern Alberta Earthquakes - ERCB Says It Would Feel "Like A Truck Driving By."... No Word On The Size Of The Truck

... The Alberta Geological Survey said it was more likely industrial activity, rather than seismic. Staff there are looking into whether hydraulic fracturing or mining activity may have caused the readings. 

Seismic Event In Southern Alberta: Could It Be An Earthquake?

Mike McKinnon, Global News : Tuesday, November 06, 2012 

Earthquakes are generally a natural disaster we don't have to think about in Alberta, but a Cardston man's curiosity led to discovery of recent activity in southern Alberta.

"I thought I'd zoom in and see what was going on," said Vernon J. Chiefmoon, who made the discovery. "I noticed in the last week we've had four earthquakes in southern Alberta."

The United States Geological Survey listed the activity at between 2.4 and 2.7 magnitude, beginning on October 27 and ending on November 1.

... The Alberta Geological Survey said it was more likely industrial activity, rather than seismic. Staff there are looking into whether hydraulic fracturing or mining activity may have caused the readings.

Chiefmoon wonders if the level of activity in our region could have shook southern Albertans.

"We're accustomed to the high winds, so if you feel the ground shaking, you'd think it's just the wind," said Chiefmoon.

"It's pretty unlikely these events would have been felt at the surface," said Barter. "If anything, it would have been close to a rumble under your feet, like a truck driving by."

Monitoring the site has been Chiefmoon's hobby for awhile now, but to his eye, activity around these parts is sporadic.

"One every one-to-two years, maybe, and very small," he said.

"Not in terms of a cluster of four that we've had lately." 

Provincial experts say activity at the magnitude registered in southern Alberta would not cause any surface damage or water well issues.  ... more.



Alberta Researchers To Record Ground Vibrations To Look For Fracking Quakes - Industry Picks Up Half The Tab

Eaton said the industry funding will not affect their findings.

Alberta Researchers To Record Ground Vibrations To Look For Fracking Quakes

By The Canadian Press, November 8, 2012

CALGARY - Researchers in Alberta are digging into a controversial technique used to extract natural gas and oil that some say causes earthquakes.

Teams from the University of Calgary and University of Alberta want to listen to hydraulic fracture treatments or fracking, as it's more commonly known.

"What it involves is installation of sensors that are called geophones, usually in a deep borehole, but sometimes also at the surface," David Eaton, a University of Calgary geophysics professor and lead investigator, said Thursday.

"The geophones are used to measure ground vibrations and if you measure ground vibrations at three or more locations, it's possible to then triangulate the location where seismic waves are created. And they're created at tiny, micro-earthquakes that occur during the frack treatment process."

... "We do want to make sure that...fracks stay in the target zone where they're intended to go and also that they're aren't any concerns about triggering of earth tremors that might be above the threshold for magnitude that people would consider acceptable."

Eaton said the research will take place at locations in Western Canada.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada is providing half of the money for the three-year, $1.86 million university project.

The rest will come from 10 industry partners, including ConocoPhillips, Cameco (TSX:CCO), Shell, Husky (TSX:HSE), Nexen (TSX:NSY) and Encana (TSCX:ECA).

Eaton said the industry funding will not affect their findings.

"We do take the challenge very seriously to maintain high academic integrity through this project and our industry partners know this."  ... more.


Frackers Fund University Research That Proves Their Case

Controversy has followed when research too closely supports a corporate agenda. Litigation against tobacco companies helped reveal a decades-long effort that relied on academic research to suppress the dangers of smoking. Today, schools of public health at Columbia University, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and others ban tobacco funding ...

By Jim Efstathiou Jr. - Jul 23, 2012, Bloomberg 

Pennsylvania remains the largest U.S. state without a tax on natural gas production, thanks in part to a study released under the banner of the Pennsylvania State University.

The 2009 report predicted drillers would shun Pennsylvania if new taxes were imposed, and lawmakers cited it the following year when they rejected a 5 percent tax proposed by then- Governor Ed Rendell. 

“As an advocacy tool, it worked,” Michael Wood, research director with the non-profit Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, said in an interview. “If people wanted to find a reason to vote against having the industry taxed in that way, that gave them reason to do it.”

What the study didn’t do was note that it was sponsored by gas drillers and led by an economist, now at the University of Wyoming, with a history of producing industry-friendly research on economic and energy issues. The researcher, Tim Considine, said his analysis was sound and not biased by industry funding.

As the U.S. enjoys a natural-gas boom from a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, producers are taking a page from the tobacco industry playbook: funding research at established universities that arrives at conclusions that counter concerns raised by critics.

Buying Prestige

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, who made the tobacco analogy, said companies and their trade associations are “buying the prestige” of universities that are sometimes not transparent about funding nor vigilant enough to prevent financial interests from shaping research findings.

The Penn State report is not the only example.

A professor at the University of Texas at Austin led a February study that found no evidence of ground-water contamination from fracking. He did not reveal that he is a member of the board of a gas producer. Company filings examined by Bloomberg indicate that in 2011, he received more than $400,000 in compensation from the company, which has fracking operations in Texas.

A May report on shale gas from the State University of New York at Buffalo contained errors and did not acknowledge “extensive ties” by its authors to the gas industry, according to a watchdog group. One of the authors was Considine, the same economist who wrote the Penn State study.

Growing Problem

“It’s a growing problem across academia,” Mark Partridge, a professor of rural-urban policy at the Ohio State University, said in an interview. “Universities are so short of money, professors are under a lot of pressure to raise research funding in any manner possible.” ... more.


Contaminated Inquiry

How a University of Texas Fracking Study Led by a Gas Industry Insider Spun the Facts and Misled the Public

July 23, 2012, Public Accountability Initiative

PAI continues to investigate fracking industry influence on academic research with this report on a University of Texas study of fracking that claimed that the drilling practice had never been linked to groundwater contamination. UT promoted the study as an independent inquiry into fracking’s environmental risks, but PAI found that the study was actually led by a gas industry insider and UT faculty member, Charles “Chip” Groat, who sits on the board of fracker Plains Exploration & Production (PXP). Groat failed to disclose this position and his $1.6 million stake in the company. ... more.


Fracking Company Paid Texas Professor Behind Water Contamination Study

Aside from Groat’s financial ties to a fracking company, Public Accountability Initiative also found issues with the fracking study itself.

By Terrence Henry, July 23, 2012, StateImpact

Earlier this year, a study led by Dr. Charles “Chip” Groat for the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin made headlines for saying there was no link between fracking and groundwater contamination. (When we reported on the study in February, we noted that the study also found some serious issues around the safety and regulation of fracking that weren’t getting much press coverage.)

But according to a new report out today by the Public Accountablitiy Initiative (PAI), a nonprofit watchdog group, the conclusions in Groat’s report aren’t as clear cut as initially reported. And Groat himself did not disclose significant financial ties to the fracking industry.

Groat, a former Director of the U.S. Geological Survey and professor at the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin, also sits on the board of Plains Exploration and Production Company, a Houston-based company that conducts drilling and fracking in Texas and other parts of the country. According to the new report (and a review of the company’s financial reports by Bloomberg) Groat received more than $400,000 from the drilling company last year alone, more than double his salary at the University. And one of the shales examined in Groat’s fracking study is currently being drilled by the company, the report says.

Since 2007, Groat has received over $1.5 million in cash and stock awards from the company, and he currently holds over $1.6 million in company stock, according to the PAI report. (Update: we clarified with PAI, and that $1.6 million in stock comes from the stock awards over the years. PAI says Groat’s total compensation from the company is close to $2 million.) ... more.



Conflicts, Errors Revealed In Positive Fracking Study 

By Wade Goodwyn, December 7, 2012, NPR

A report that shed favorable light on fracking is at the center of a controversy at the University of Texas. The head of the school's Energy Institute has stepped down and another professor has retired after an investigation found numerous errors and flaws in the report — and undisclosed conflicts of interest. ... more at above audio.


SUNY Buffalo Shuts Down Its Institute On Drilling

“The people who signed the petition feel that their public university needs to remain a public university and not a mouthpiece for corporations”

By Mireya Navarro, November 19, 2012, The New York times

The State University of New York at Buffalo announced Monday that it was closing down its newly formed Shale Resources and Society Institute, which was devoted to the study of hydraulic fracturing, citing “a cloud of uncertainty over its work.”

The institute’s first study, released in May, drew sharp criticism for being biased in favor of the oil and gas industry.

In a letter addressed to the “university community,” President Satish K. Tripathi said he was closing the institute after an internal assessment that determined that it lacked “sufficient” faculty presence, that it was not consistent enough in disclosing its financial interests and that the credibility of its research was compromised because of questions over its financing.

“It is imperative that our faculty members adhere to rigorous standards of academic integrity, intellectual honesty, transparency and the highest ethical conduct in their work,” Mr. Tripathi wrote.

Buffalo’s decision is the most extreme response to date over criticism of academic bias in research related to the controversial natural gas drilling process commonly known as hydrofracking, or fracking. The University of Texas at Austin is conducting a similar review of a university fracking study released earlier this year. One of the professors who fostered the study did not disclose that he was on the board of a gasoline company.

The controversies over fracking research tap into concerns in academia about the growing influence of corporate money in research especially at a time when government grants are declining.

The University at Buffalo, a major research center with the most students in the State University of New York system, came under pressure from professors, students and some SUNY trustees to close its shale institute, with a petition with more than 10,500 signatures.

“The people who signed the petition feel that their public university needs to remain a public university and not a mouthpiece for corporations,” said Jim Holstun, an English professor at the university who, early on, questioned the institute’s practices.

The Buffalo study, issued on May 15, said that state regulation in Pennsylvania had made drilling there far safer and that New York’s pending rules were even more likely to ensure safety if drilling began in the state.

But a local government watchdog group, the Public Accountability Initiative, raised questions about the study’s data and conclusions as well as the lack of full disclosure about its lead authors, who have also conducted other research directly for the industry. ... more.


Hydraulic Fracturing And Water Resources A California Perspective

By Frederick T. Stanin, Fall 2012, Groundwater Association of California HydroVisions Vol 21, No. 3

... The most memorable moment was when Dr. John Cherry, the renowned hydrogeologist from the University of Guelph, characterized the activities in the U.S. as a grand experiment with no proper scientific research on the effects of hydrofracturing on the environment.

He challenged the funding mechanisms for such research in the U.S. because of the ties between universities and industry (or other parties), and indicated that the U.S. would be better off with a funding system similar to that in Canada, where the funding is not similarly tied and thus scientific research can proceed relatively unencumbered. ... more.

Cenovus donates $3 Million to the University of Alberta

Gwyn Morgan, President and past CEO of Encana honoured by University of Alberta 

EnCana Donates $7.5 Million to the University of Alberta

EnCana to Donate $1 Million to the University of Calgary

EnCana $1 Million Donation to University of Calgary Questioned as Company Awaits Energy Decision

Talisman pledges $1.25 M to Mount Royal University, Alberta     

Burning Waters: UVic Partner’s environmental record questioned

Encana donates $1.5 Million to Mount Royal University

University of Calgary Prostitutes Itself To Big Oil & Gas

Encana donates $1 million to Red Deer College

Million-dollar Nexen donation to Mount Royal University

Cenovus donates $3 Million to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

Is the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology overflowing with oil money?


Earthquakes--Rattling The Earth's Plumbing

By Michelle Sneed, Devin L. Galloway and William Cunningham, October 2003, United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Hydrogeologic responses to earthquakes have been known for decades, and have occurred both close to, and thousands of miles from earthquake epicenters. Water wells have become turbid, dry or begun flowing, discharge of springs and ground water to streams has increased and new springs have formed, and well and surface water quality have become degraded as a result of earthquakes. Earthquakes affect our Earth's intricate plumbing system--whether you live near the notoriously active San Andreas Fault in California, or far from active faults in Florida, an earthquake near or far can affect you and the water sources you depend on.

... Earthquakes can also be induced by the injection or withdrawal of fluids through wells, as was illustrated by the earthquakes caused by injection of waste fluid from munitions production at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in the 1960s (Healy and others, 1968).

... The exact mechanism linking hydrogeologic changes and earthquakes is not fully understood, but monitoring these changes improves our insights into the responsible mechanisms, and may improve our frustratingly imprecise ability to forecast the timing, magnitude, and impact of earthquakes. ... more.


Virginia Earthquake Could Affect Some Water Wells

While surface structures are often designed to be earthquake resistant, the same cannot be said of water well construction. The result is that often wells are destroyed.

WESTERVILLE, OH — August 23, 2011, National Groundwater association

What happens above the Earth’s surface was dramatically apparent today in places from Mineral, Virginia, to Washington, D.C., but what’s not so obvious are impacts beneath the surface to groundwater, said the National Ground Water Association.

While it’s too early to assess in Virginia and surrounding environs, earthquakes commonly cause fluctuations in groundwater levels and damage to water wells systems, said NGWA Public Awareness Director Cliff Treyens.

“Since aquifers are water-bearing subsurface formations, it makes sense that water levels and wells would be affected,” Treyens said. “One well driller after a California quake cited a well that produced 60 gallons per minute prior to a moderate earthquake slowing down to ‘practically nothing’ after.”  

Sometimes the reason for such impacts is obvious. In bedrock formations, for instance, the well will be drilled until it hits a fracture or crevice that holds water. A moderate earthquake could easily alter that configuration, Treyens said.

Aquifers consisting of unconsolidated materials can compact, or become unstructured as a result of the seismic energy moving though them during the earthquake, in a process called “liquefaction.” This results in a loss of storage for groundwater and subsidence on the ground’s surface.

While surface structures are often designed to be earthquake resistant, the same cannot be said of water well construction. The result is that often wells are destroyed. Earthquakes also can affect groundwater quality, sometimes causing turbid well water. ... more.


Gas 'Fracking' Gets Conditional Green Light in UK, After Causing Quakes

...  In April last year, around Cuadrilla's main Blackpool site, there was a tremor measuring magnitude 2.3 and in May one measuring magnitude 1.5.

... instruments showed the second tremor had caused ‘deformation’ to the structure of the well.

Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent, The Guardian, April 17, 2012

Ministers have been advised to allow the controversial practice of fracking for shale gas to be extended in Britain, despite it causing two earthquakes and the emergence of serious doubts over the safety of the wells that have already been drilled.

... “... In April last year, around Cuadrilla's main Blackpool site, there was a tremor measuring magnitude 2.3 and in May one measuring magnitude 1.5. These tremors are enough to be felt but do not in themselves cause serious damage.

The report, titled Preese Hall Shale Gas Fracturing: Review and Recommendations for Induced Seismic Mitigation, concluded that both earthquakes were related to the drilling. The report also revealed another concern – instruments showed the second tremor had caused ‘deformation’ to the structure of the well.

This is of concern because if the integrity of a well is compromised, it could cause future problems with leakage and contamination, and raises longer term concerns about the design and viability of such wells, according to Mike Hill, an industry expert. He is worried that the monitoring of the cement casings for the fracking wells is inadequate, as officials have been unable to provide detailed information on their monitoring.” ... more.


Investigation of Observed Seismicity in the Horn River Basin

... Two instances of wellbore deformation along horizontal sections were reported by one operator.

By BC Oil and Gas Commission, August 2012

Between April 2009 and July 2011, 31 seismic events were recorded and located by NRCan in the Etsho area of the Horn River Basin in northeast British Columbia (Figure 1). Another seven events were recorded near the Tattoo area between Dec. 8 and Dec. 13, 2011. The observed events ranged in magnitude between 2.2 and 3.8 ML on the Richter scale as recorded by NRCan (Table 1). A search of the areas in the National Earthquake Database from 1985 to present shows no detected seismicity in the Horn River Basin prior to 2009.

... Two instances of wellbore deformation along horizontal sections were reported by one operator.

These occurred over a short interval beginning at 3,011 m KB (Kelly Bushing) in the d-A1-D/94-O-9 well.

In this instance, casing deformation was minor and did not hinder completion operations.

At d-1-D/94-O-9, the deformation was encountered at 4,245 m KB and the casing distortion blocked completion efforts at 4,288 m KB.

… This deformation was detected in July 2011.

... Conclusion

Horn River Basin seismicity events, from 2009 to late 2011, were caused by fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing. All events occurred during or between hydraulic fracturing stage operations. ... more.


Seismicity In the Oil Field

By Vitaly V. Adushkin. Vladimir N. Rodionov. Sergey Turuntaev. Institute of Dynamics of Geospheres,. Russian Academy of Sciences, 2000. Much of this article originally appeared in the Schlumberger Russian version of the Oilfield Review, Neftegasovoye Obozreniye 5, no.1 (Spring 2000): 4:15.

… The amassed data indicate that the Gazli earthquakes were triggered by the exploitation of the gas field.

In regions of high tectonic potential energy, hydrocarbon production can cause severe increases in seismic activity and trigger strong earthquakes, as in Gazli, Uzbekistan.

In regions of lower tectonic stress, earthquakes of that magnitude are less likely, but relatively weak earthquakes could occur and damage surface structures. ... more.



EARTHQUAKES: Drillers Face First Class-Action Suit For Triggered Temblors

The suit says that the companies’ 'ultrahazardous' actions have made residents fear for their safety and caused the cost of earthquake insurance to skyrocket.

By Mike Soraghan, July 5, 2012, E&E Publishing - (Subscription Required)

'Defendants, experienced in these operations, were well aware of the connection between injection wells and seismic activity, and acted in disregard of these facts,' says the suit, filed by the Little Rock class-action firm Emerson Poynter LLP on behalf of Stephen Hearn and several other residents of Faulkner County, Ark.

The suit says that the companies’ 'ultrahazardous' actions have made residents fear for their safety and caused the cost of earthquake insurance to skyrocket.

… Scientists are investigating whether other earthquakes in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas are linked to drilling activities such as waste injection. Seismologists at the U.S. Geological Survey have suggested that some of those quakes, along with the Arkansas swarm, are part of a “remarkable” increase in the number of earthquakes in the middle of the country that is “almost certainly man-made” and likely linked to oil and gas operations (EnergyWire, March 29).  First Amended and Consolidated Class Action Complaint


Portage County: Drilling Blamed For Home Damage

Beckie Dean says her homeowner's insurance will not cover repairing the damage to her walls and ceilings. The drilling company has not admitted responsibility and she admits it may be hard to prove.

By Dick Russ, December 5, 2012, WKYC-TV

WINDHAM -- A homeowner says cracking walls and crumbling mortar are being caused by a nearby well.

Beckie Dean blames the "enormous" damage to her 11-year-old house on the drilling operation just across the street, about 1,000 feet away.

She says the cracks began to appear in September, soon after the well went online.

"We've had two contractors, two structural engineers come in, and they both said it is defintely vibration cracks and they ruled out every other source of vibration except for the drilling rig," Dean told WKYC.

Dean has noted every crack and writes the time and date it appeared next to it, on her walls and ceiling. She pointed to her fireplace which has loose mortar and had two decorative rocks fall off of it.

"After that, water began to leak through the chimney into the house," she recalled. "You could feel the mortar as wet as the day they built it."

The soon-to-be former flight attendant said she had an impossible time getting the required hours of rest before work, because of the constant drone and thud of the drilling equipment.

"It was like a helicopter," is how Dean described it.  "It's like the helicopter is on the ground, or there is a diesel semi truck outside your bedroom window 24/7."

The eastern Portage County homeowner made an audio recording one day at 3 a.m. of the noise inside her bedroom, where the windows were closed.

She has also had several visits from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which regulates drilling.

They took video inside her house and made other observations during their investigation, including recording the vibrations caused by the  well.

"The sound is always there, you can't get it out of your head," she said, and answered a question about how she gets enough sleep by saying, "You don't. You don't. You don't." 

"Some of us have given up our jobs because of safety issues, some of us are just rag-tired, and thank God our bosses are sympathetic to us."

... She hopes her experience will be a warning to anyone thinking of leasing their land, and to those in the neighborhood where a fracking well is planned.

"They see the dollar signs, they see the large number and they see the dollar sign. They don't' see what's coming to their community," she warns. "They don't see that the big trucks are coming in. They don't see that their children's lives are over."

Beckie Dean says her homeowner's insurance will not cover repairing the damage to her walls and ceilings. The drilling company has not admitted responsibility and she admits it may be hard to prove.

"We are stuck. We are stuck. We're absolutely stuck," she said. "There's 14 wells going in across the road. It'll be ten years before they're done." ... more.



Watch: Cochrane Area Rancher Experiences Ground Trembling, Barn Damage - Alberta, Canada (2012)



Nationwide Insurance: Fracking Damage Won't Be Covered

'After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore.'

Huffington Post, July 12, 2012, By Mary Esch AP

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has become the first major insurance company to say it won't cover damage related to a gas drilling process that blasts chemical-laden water deep into the ground.

The Columbus, Ohio-based company's personal and commercial policies "were not designed to cover" risk from the drilling process, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Nationwide spokeswoman Nancy Smeltzer said Thursday.

... Health and environmental groups claim fracking can contaminate drinking water. The gas industry says it's safe if done properly. Nationwide said risks involved in fracking operations "are too great to ignore" and apply to policies of commercial contractors and landowners who lease property to gas companies.

The Nationwide policy first came to light when an internal memo detailing underwriting guidelines was posted on websites of upstate New York anti-fracking groups and landowner coalitions seeking gas leases. Smeltzer confirmed that the memo was genuine but said it wasn't intended for public dissemination.

The memo reads: "After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage."

It said "prohibited risks" apply to landowners who lease land for shale gas drilling and contractors involved in fracking operations, including those who haul water to and from drill sites; pipe and lumber haulers; and operators of bulldozers, dump trucks and other vehicles used in drill site preparation. ... more.


WillisWire Bloggers Reveal Their Top Emerging Risks for 2012 

"... Other exposures, like the risks associated with hydraulic fracking for natural gas, have been growing in significance lately, with several lawsuits ... making insurance hard to find.”

By Charles E. Boyle, January 24, 2012, Insurance Journal
A bulletin from Willis Group Holdings identifies 18 “emerging risks,” as causing increasing concern among the world’s insurance community. Willis compiled the list from its new website of intellectual capital, WillisWire.
While “headline-grabbing events” – the euro zone crisis, the Arab Spring, natural catastrophes like the Japanese earthquake and Thai floods – have all received extensive exposure and commentary, “new risks are emerging that could blindside business executives,” Wills warns.
The WillisWire survey identifies a number of these new risks that it says “may gain more popular consciousness in 2012. They are the type of “thorny problems that may be keeping risk managers up at night, from fracking to cyber terrorism, space tourism and uncertainty around renewables caused by national energy policies.”
Willis said bloggers on the new site “together represent many of the broker’s subject matter experts.” WillisWire has received on average nearly 9,000 page views a month since its launch in September 2011.
The survey focuses on 18 emerging risks facing industries as diverse as Energy, Banking, Captives and Power & Utilities. The blog also polls readers asking them to identify which of the risks listed they think will have the greatest impact in 2012.
The WillisWire round-up identified the following risks as being of the greatest concern:
• Energy:  “Fracking”
• Environmental: “Fracking”
• Mining: “Contingent Business Interruption”
• Supply Chain Interruption: “Issues at Subtier Suppliers”
• Trade Credit – “Political-Economic Turmoil”
• Financial Institutions: “Bradley Manning 2.0″ ...
... Willis notes that some of the risks “might not yet be front-and-center on companies’ radars, like the ‘perfect storm of cross-border cooperation between regulators’ brewing outside boardrooms globally. Other exposures, like the risks associated with hydraulic fracking for natural gas, have been growing in significance lately, with several lawsuits (but no big claims as of yet) making insurance hard to find.” ... more.



Fracking and Quaking: They're Linked

It appears that regulators are now playing catch-up with industry once again.

By Andrew Nikiforuk, November 18, 2011, TheTyee.ca 

The next time a Canadian consumer turns up their natural gas furnace or clicks on that gas burner, he or she may have inadvertently triggered an earthquake. Or a swarm of earthquakes.

Although the Canadian Gas Association calls methane a versatile, abundant and safe fuel, its unconventional cousin, shale gas, has been shaking the ground all the way from Lancashire, England to Dallas, Texas.

Shale gas drilling has also been associated with earthquakes in Arkansas, Alberta, and Oklahoma too. And now, even B.C.'s Oil and Gas Commission is investigating 31 tremors with magnitudes as great as 4.3 that have shaken the Horn River shale gas play near Fort Nelson, B.C. since 2009.

... "There hasn't been a link between the hydraulic fracturing and anomalous seismic activity, but we wanted to take a proactive approach," explained Hardy Friedrich, a spokesman of the OGC earlier in the month.

The U.S., however, identified hydraulic fracturing as an earthquake trigger as early as 1990. In fact, the oil and gas industry has been triggering earthquakes for more than 50 years. Moreover, shale gas activity, which drills and injects fluid much deeper into the earth's crust at higher pressures than normal, has set off a remarkable string of man-made tremors -- all with uncertain impacts.

Shale's seismic shake-ups

To date, most of the incidents appear to be strongly associated with high-pressure disposal of wastewater from shale gas wells.

In fact, the phenomenon has become so dramatic in booming shale gas regions that regulators, policy makers and ordinary landowners are getting truly rattled. 

The number of mini-quakes in highly drilled Alberta alone has increased so demonstrably in recent decades (from 60 to more than 200 a decade) that the government launched a project "to document and understand their relationship to oil and gas production."

Similar concerns are arising throughout the U.S. "If not addressed properly induced seismicity could unduly delay and cancel important energy applications," warned an expert at the U.S. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

... Scientists, however, have known for a long time that fluid injection a few kilometres deep into the ground can cause earthquakes, because that's where the Earth's crust lies closest to faults and fractures.

Source - United States Geological SurveyThe U.S. military accidentally proved that fluid injection can stress existing faults in the 1960s at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal outside of Denver, Colorado, with spectacular consequences.

In 1962, the military started pumping chemical waste into a disposal well drilled two miles underground. The injection of fluids then triggered an astounding 1,500 earthquakes between 1962 and 1967.

After the military stopped injecting waste due to protests, three earthquakes greater than 5 on the Richter scale rocked Denver area, resulting in more than $8-million worth of property damage. Scientists later blamed the earthquakes on fluid injection that unbalanced an existing fault or fracture.

A decade later, after the rapid depletion of sour gas pools near the Strachan Gas plant outside of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta triggered 143 earthquakes in 23 days with magnitudes as great as 3.5.

Concluded a 1985 Canadian federal report: "The earthquakes are not induced by fluid injection but more likely by depletion of the reservoir through gas extraction." The event proved to experts that pumping stuff out of the ground could cause notable seismic activity as great as pumping it into the ground.

In the 1980s, another cluster of earthquakes shook oil fields in Fort St. John, B.C. The region had no history of seismic activity. All of the quakes occurred after industry flooded reservoirs with water to recover hard-to-get oil.

The first cluster of earthquakes shook the region in 1984 and could be felt 2,000 kilometres away. Another cluster with a magnitude as high as 3.5 occurred in the 1990s right in the oil production area.

Concluded researchers in the Canadian Journal of Exploration Geophysics in 1994: "there do appear to be spatial and temporal correlations between the earthquakes and oil production in the Eagle West and Eagle fields. Fluid injection in particular must be considered as a possible cause."

By 1990, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had even identified the practice of hydraulic fracturing and fluid injection as earthquake triggers and recommended extensive seismic monitoring.

Noted the EPA report on man-made earthquake hazards and deep well injection: "If earthquakes thought to be related to injection operations are detected, then the following questions are appropriate: Is it possible that induced earthquakes might cause damage or injury in the surrounding area? and is it possible that the earthquakes indicate fault displacement that might threaten the integrity of the confining zone? If the answer to either of these questions is 'yes,' then consideration should be given to reducing the injection pressure." 

... Many geologists in the oil patch have warmed about the hazards of induced seismicity for decades.

In 1995, Jack Century, now a retired Amoco employee, recommended that the industry "educate the public about those fields where induced seismicity has already been accepted as scientifically proven."

"We should also investigate with increased rigorous objectivity, all areas at risk in which seismicity may be induced through current activity of oil and gas production, enhanced oil recovery by water injection and in natural gas storage facilities," he said.

It appears that regulators are now playing catch-up with industry once again. ... more.


Fracking Contamination 'Will Get Worse': Alberta Expert

"They'll frack each well up to 20 times. Each time the pressure will shudder and bang the pipes in the wellbore. The cement is hard and the steel is soft. If you do it all the time you are going to break bonds and cause leaks. It's a real major issue."

By Andrew Nikiforuk, December 19, 2011, TheTyee.ca

"The shale gas boom combined with hydraulic fracking will cause wellbores to leak more often than run-of-the-mill conventional wells," says Karlis Muehlenbachs, a geochemist at the University of Alberta. "The problem is going to get worse, not better."

Muehlenbachs, a leading authority on identifying the unique carbon fingerprint or isotopes of shale and conventional gases, says regulators must do better baseline groundwater testing and rigorously check wells for leakage. (Industry calls these leaks surface casing vent flow or sustained casing pressure.)

"The biggest problem is that half or more the wells drilled leak due to improper cement jobs or industry is not following best practices," adds Muehlenbachs.

Earlier this month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that EnCana, the continent's second largest shale gas producer, had contaminated groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming. 

Those findings, which contradict industry assurances, didn't surprise Muehlenbachs, who has studied leaking wells in Alberta's heavy oil fields for decades.

... Muehlenbachs, who has been fingerprinting leaking gases since 1994, says that hydraulic fracking, which injects water, chemicals and sand into rock formations at high pressures, may create more leaks in wellbores overtime. (As industry searches for deeper and more extreme hydrocarbons, it must blast open tight rocks with more brute force over larger land bases than conventional operations.)   

"They'll frack each well up to 20 times. Each time the pressure will shudder and bang the pipes in the wellbore. The cement is hard and the steel is soft. If you do it all the time you are going to break bonds and cause leaks. It's a real major issue. "

Industry spokesmen typically argue that if the drilling hole is properly cased with steel and cemented "the risk of any interaction between drinking water and fracturing fluid is significantly diminished."

But Muehlenbachs replies with another question: "Yes, but what happens if the job is not done right and how frequent are problems encountered?"

According to Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield company, there are problems galore. In 2003, the company reported that 43 per cent of 6,692 offshore wells tested in the Gulf of Mexico by U.S. regulators were found to be leaking. In fact, by the time a well gets 15 years old, there is a 50 probability it will leak significantly and therefore contaminate other zones, wells, or groundwater.

"That's amazing. It's not Greenpeace reporting this but Schlumberger in the Oilfield Review," says Muehlenbachs.

... Although petroleum engineers now admit that companies routinely blast fluids and gas into other industry wells hundreds of metres away (B.C., Texas and North Dakota have all documented such cases), they still claim that "fracture communication incidents" can't happen with groundwater.

Muehlenbachs, who has documented numerous cases of groundwater contamination, calls such denials dishonest. "Such claims do more harm than good to industry. Don't they realize that social license matters to industry?"   

Whenever methane leaks from one well into a neighboring wellsite, "industry says let's fix the leaks," says Muehlenbachs. "But as soon as the leaks enter groundwater, everyone abandons the same logic and technology and says it can't happen and the denials come out. In Alberta, it's almost a religious belief that gas leaks can't contaminate groundwater."

Yet it happens routinely. At a conference in Washington D.C. last month sponsored by Resources for the Future, Muehlenbachs showed evidence that shale gas drilling activity in Quebec and Pennsylvania had in several cases resulted in surface contamination.

In two cases (companies sent him gas samples to analyze), he found that deep shale methane from the Utica Shale definitely leaked up the wellbore and contaminated groundwater. In another case, gas originating along the wellbore had moved into water.

A similar example in Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale formation again found that deep shale methane rich in propane and ethane had leaked to the surface casing, contrary to all industry predictions. The Marcellus lies 2,300 to 6,000 feet deep, which is a little shallower than B.C.'s Montney play at 6,000 to 8,200 feet.

The debate about whether leaking shale methane comes from heavily fracked zones creating faults into groundwater or along poorly cemented wellbores is immaterial to landowners, says Muehlenbachs. "You don't care if it comes from fracking or a bad cement job, you suffer the consequences all the same, and lose your well water."

Given these findings and a Duke University study that found extensive methane contamination of domestic water wells in a heavily fracked area, Muehlenbachs recommends that regulators do rigorous gas and water testing.

In addition to baseline isotope testing of methane for all water wells and groundwater sources, (something EnCana didn't do in Pavillion), Muehlenbachs says regulators must also test for ethane and propane (the shale gas fingerprint) as well as gas from abandoned wells and natural seeps and gases from well casings. "The above requirements are not onerous; such isotope data is often in hand for it is used to optimize production," adds Muehlenbachs.

.. Asked if Alberta's oil patch regulator or B.C.'s Oil and Gas Commission had approached one of the world's leading experts on how to fingerprint leaking gases from gas formations, Muehlenbachs replied quickly.

"No," said Muehlenbachs. "No one pays any attention to me. The Alberta regulators are only interested in optimizing production." ... more. 


Paddy Sounds Fracking Alarm

[SPOG executive director Tracey] McCrimmon said she understands Munro’s point of view and the P&P presentation gave him “an opportunity to vent,” she added, “but doesn’t change anything.”

By John Gleeson, Mar 20, 2012, Mountain View Gazette

Paddy Munro gives a presentation on hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - to Mountain View County councillors during Wednesday's policies and priorities committee meeting. Photo - Noel West/Mountain View GazetteThe past reeve of Mountain View County launched a fracking awareness campaign last week, calling on his council and other municipalities to press the Alberta government to get serious about regulating the controversial practice.

“I believe we have an unsuspecting public that isn’t being told the whole truth by the ERCB,” Div. 6 Coun. Paddy Munro told council’s policies and priorities committee Wednesday.

Munro’s 90-minute PowerPoint presentation to P&P drew a full gallery of about 55 people, including invited officials from neighbouring municipalities.

Saying that he was “here representing myself” and didn’t “expect any extra consideration,” Munro said the problem now is a lack of data, no disclosure of frac chemicals, downplaying of water usage by regulators and industry, and no licensing of water withdrawals.

The Energy Resource Conservation Board and stakeholder groups such as the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance and the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group have failed to publicly acknowledge the serious potential environmental impacts of fracking, he said.

While attending a recent oil and gas industry conference on media and community relations, Munro said he learned the industry is “scared stiff” about regulations that are coming in the wake of public concerns.

“Industry is scared to death because they know what’s coming. They know the regulators aren’t doing their job now, but they’re worried about it swinging the other way.”

The measures Munro is advocating include:

• Public disclosure of frac chemicals with tracers assigned to each company used on each hydraulic fracture.

• Baseline water testing. Investment by industry and government in a network of water monitoring wells.

• Public disclosure of all water withdrawals and identification of where the water is used.

• Recycling all flowback fluids for subsequent fracs or treatment at approved wastewater treatment facilities.

• Environmental impact assessments for any proposed water withdrawals exceeding a threshold established by environmental regulators.

• Wellbore construction and quality assurance tests on all adjacent wells.

• Establishing “no go zones” where fracking operations are banned outright or are subject to more stringent approvals.

• Paying fair royalties to all Albertans.

Munro pointed out during his presentation that the last decade has seen a revolution in fracking technology, enabling companies to create 10 to 60 frac zones per well, with one million to four million litres of water used for each frac zone.

“The water quantity that they’re using is massive,” he said.

His use of U.S. data and regulatory history, however, prompted Div. 7 Coun. Al Kemmere to ask if Munro had comparable Canadian data.

“I found it very difficult to find any information on Canada,” Munro said. “To get Alberta Environment on water usage … you cannot get an answer.”

Kemmere also asked what kind of criteria would be used to determine “no go zones.”

“I would suggest you’d need a more skilled professional than myself” to answer, Munro said.

Kemmere said one proposed measure he would question was the call for monitoring wells, since that strategy has been rejected for water wells because of risks of further contamination.

Div. 1 Coun. Kevin Good said one of the roles included in the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group’s mission statement was “sharing relevant information” with the public.

“Does this not fly in the face of what you said?” Good asked.

“I don’t think the organization is taken seriously,” Munro said of SPOG. “Most of the industry reps aren’t in the position to make any decisions. If we’re going to have 370 wells in our SPOG zone I’d like to see some communication with people who are actually going to make the decisions.”

“This presentation should have come from SPOG,” Good suggested.

“A lot of people just want their questions answered,” Munro said.

Despite the criticism of both bodies, Munro recommended council invite SPOG and the ERCB to speak at a future public meeting. He said he would be willing to repeat his PowerPoint presentation to SPOG or any interested group in Central Alberta, or to Premier Alison Redford if she wanted to hear it.

... SPOG executive director Tracey McCrimmon, who attended Wednesday’s presentation, said she wished it had contained more relevant data on the industry in Alberta, rather than the U.S. experience. And she said many of the issues raised by Munro were recently identified by SPOG through its proactive engagement process.

... McCrimmon said she understands Munro’s point of view and the P&P presentation gave him “an opportunity to vent,” she added, “but doesn’t change anything.”

 ... Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood, who also attended Wednesday’s presentation, said larger fracking operations have had some impact on roads in his county.

“That’s why it’s important we work with these companies to make sure we have a road system that is not deteriorated from the amount of trucks going on it,” Wood said.

“We haven’t seen these sizes of fracs (that Munro described during his presentation) coming into our region yet, but we’re doing what we can to make ourselves aware and prepared.”

While the county does not regulate the industry, he added, “we do try to make sure our residents are represented … and try to help information to come out. We’re interested. That’s why I’m here today.”

Munro said the next day that he had already been invited to speak on hydraulic fracturing at two colleges – Olds and Camrose – and four counties.

“I’ve got an unbelievable amount of emails – all of them in support,” Munro said. ... more.


Roads Concern Rocky View County Residents

Overall, roads are the top priority for just about everybody

By Derek Clouthier, September 26, 2012, Cochrane Eagle

The first phase of development for the Rocky View County (RVC) Plan is now complete, and the upkeep of the region’s roadways tops the priority list for most county residents.

'Overall, roads are the top priority for just about everybody,' said County Plan project manager Richard Barss.

Oilfield traffic and dust near Misty Vale Estates, Rocky View County, Alberta'But when you do break it down to some of these sub areas, some communities, like Bearspaw, fire protection ranked number one and roads came out number two.'

Barss said that although roads came out on top in the northwest quadrant where Cochrane is located, agriculture and food came in at a close second.

'There are definite differences amongst our various communities and areas,' said Barss, 'so that also might help us when we write the County Plan.'

Phase one of the public engagement for the RVC Plan included a survey for county residents to fill out and, in total, 1,276 RVC residents partook. Fire Oilfield traffic near the Oxyoke Nature Preserve - Rocky View County, Albertaprotection and prevention came in second on the precedence list, followed by agriculture and food, sewage, stormwater and garbage and watershed management rounded out the top five.

'We’re really pleased with the response,' said Barss. 'It showed some cross the county trends, but it also brought out differences. The county is very big…so we would recognize there’re also different needs and different ways of thinking in the county.'

Barss said the county will model the new RVC Plan based on these differences to reflect the various needs depending on whether one lives in Langdon, Cochrane or in a more rural area of the county. The plan will determine a set of guidelines for the county over the next 10 years, prioritizing the various projects residents want to see completed during that timeframe. 

... The next step in the process of creating the RVC Plan is a series of workshops, seven in total, that will dig deeper into what county residents want to see happen over the next decade. ... more.


Companies making their own laws? Is there a 'Petrobakken Police Force' to enforce this? What are the penalties? Is there a penalty for running over and killing a family's pet, as happened in this formerly peaceful area of Rocky View County, Alberta?



CAUS Holds Second Meeting to Address Fracking

By Derek Clouthier, October 3, 2012, Cochrane Eagle

Road damage was also addressed during the meeting, particularly who pays for the repairs. Despite a previous assertion that an energy company has donated $500,000 to RVC for road repairs, CAUS said that after their own research, no such payment had ever been made. ... more.



 Fracking Traffic (2011)




The Potential Transportation Impacts Are Ominous

Before and after photos of SR 3020 in Towanda Township, Bradford County, PADRAFT Discussion Paper

Transportation Impacts of Potential Marcellus Shale Gas Development

The purpose of this document is to provide a preliminary assessment of the nature, scope and intensity of potential transportation impacts of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale formation for discussion purposes within the Department (NYSDOT), with staff in Governor Cuomo's office, and with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) which is responsible for the promulgation of regulations concerning oil, gas and solutions mining in the State of New York. It is a necessary first step in initiating the dialogue among the many agencies and organizations that will need to prepare for and resolve the problems that may occur, to the greater benefits of the citizens of the State and its economy.

The potential transportation impacts are ominous.

Assuming current gas drilling technology and a lower level of development than will be experienced in Pennsylvania the Marcellus region will see a peak year increase of up to 1.5-million heavy truck trips, and induced development may increase peak hour trips by 36,000 trips/hour.

photo/PennDOT Engineering District 4-0While this new traffic will be distributed around the Marcellus region this Discussion Paper suggests that it will be necessary to reconstruct hundreds of miles of roads and scores of bridges and undertake safety and operational improvements in many areas.

The annual costs to undertake these transportation projects are estimated to range from $90 to $156 million for State roads and from $121-$222 million for local roads.

There is no mechanism in place allowing State and local governments to absorb these additional transportation costs without major impacts to other programs and other municipalities in the State.

This Discussion Paper also concludes that the New York State Department of Transportation and local governments currently lack the authority and resources necessary to mitigate such problems. ... more.




State Begins Crunching Costs of Road Damage From Gas Exploration

1,184 loaded trucks are necessary to "bring one gas well into production," plus 353 loaded trucks per year for maintenance and 997 loaded trucks every five years to re-frac a well.

By Leslie Minora, Mar. 20 2012, Dallas Observer Blogs

The Texas Department of Transportation foots much of the bill for the road damage brought about by trucks traveling to and from hydraulic fracturing operations, and for the first time, the agency is collecting data with an eye to possibly recouping future funds.

Short-term spending for TxDOT includes $40 million to repair roads damaged by truck traffic in areas around the Barnett and Eagle Ford shale formations, where natural gas exploration is most prevalent. The department does not have data on how much state money has previously been spent on road damage due to these operations.

"[Collecting this type of data] is not something we've done in the past because it hasn't been so significant," TxDOT spokesman Mark Cross told Unfair Park. As recently as the past year, he said, his agency has noticed an especially significant increase in road damage in areas with a high concentration of gas wells. While drilling for natural gas is hardly new, it seems it's taken a while for the state to make special note of the cumulative effect on roadways, an issue noted by StateImpact.

Here are a few stats included in TxDOT's February report on the issue, based on numbers from Fort Worth:

1,184 loaded trucks are necessary to "bring one gas well into production," plus 353 loaded trucks per year for maintenance and 997 loaded trucks every five years to re-frac a well. Or, by the TxDOT's arithmetic, that's the equivalent of about 8 million cars, plus 2 million cars per year for maintenance, which translates to a thus far unknown but significant maintenance cost. ... more.


Rocky View County Councillor Speaks Out On Recent Council Decisions

Other concerns raised in his announcement stated the transportation levy is too low and the reserve account can only pay to build six kilometres of road.

By Sylvia Cole, Nov 12, 2012, Rocky View Weekly

... When contacted, Sacuta said it’s important for him to put these ads out so people in the county knows what’s going on. He said the news stories don’t necessarily cover everything and he “owes it to the people” who elected him to get the information out.

This isn’t the first time Sacuta has placed an ad — he said he’s been doing it for quite some time and finds the feedback from residents in Rocky View County has generally been positive so he continues with it.

Other concerns raised in his announcement stated the transportation levy is too low and the reserve account can only pay to build six kilometres of road. ... more.


Mountain View County Well Drilling Fees Will Bring In Well Over $1 Million In 2012

“Our concern is what is the future impact on those roads and when is that going to show up.”

By Dan Singleton, December 11, 2012, Mountain View Gazette

Fees paid by oil and gas companies to MountainView County for well drilling activities have already exceeded $1 million this year, councillors heard during last week’s Policies andPriorities meeting. Greg Wiens, director of corporate services, presented a financial update for the county as of the end of September.

“It is a significant amount of revenue,” said Wiens. “We have received a lot of revenue in October and November, so we have well over a million dollars in revenue from our well drilling tax in 2012.”

As of Sept. 30, the county had received $1,030,953 from well drilling taxes.

“That revenue was slated to go to reserves and as we go through the year-end process there will probably be some discussion as to where some of those extra funds could go,” he said.

“We have been getting a lot of revenue, but we’ve also seen the impacts of a lot of oil and gas activities as well.” Coun. Paddy Munro said, “I see that impact in Division 6. I see what happens with all that oil and gas activity, the way the roads are basically destroyed.”

CAO Tony Martens said, “Our concern is what is the future impact on those roads and when is that going to show up.” 

In 2011 well drilling fees brought in about $435,000. ... more.


Niobara Oil Drilling Saps Wyoming’s County Road Budgets

In an era when rebuilding a paved road can cost more than $1 million a mile, the annual maintenance and construction budget for the Goshen County Road and Bridge Department is a meager $1.6 million.

By Gregory Nickerson, WyoFile, Guest Writer, January 19, 2011, New West

South Gap Road is among the Platte County roads being affected by oil development. The annual county road budget is $835,000 plus money for special projects, but it could cost up to $16 million to repair and improve the county's oil patch roads. Gregory Nickerson/WyoFile

Shawn Hall runs a farm and feedlot just outside of Veteran, in the agricultural valley of Goshen Hole. It’s a rural area that produces hay, corn, cattle and dryland wheat. Even by Wyoming standards, this is a quiet place. The county road that passes by Hall’s place might see three to four cars a day.

“Some days, it’s no cars,” said Hall.

But recently, that slow pace of life has vanished as his ranch has become an epicenter in the Niobrara oil play.

In 2010, Hall granted a lease to Chesapeake Energy to drill two exploratory wells into the oil-bearing Niobrara shale.  The formation is located 6,000-8,000 feet beneath the cows that graze on the surface of his property. Over the last few months, Hall has seen hundreds of semi-truckloads of drilling materials, water and rig equipment roll down the county road to the well pads.

... A destroyed road could be a major inconvenience for Hall and Chesapeake Energy. But it would also be a safety hazard for local residents, and a barrier for emergency vehicles that might need to respond to accidents at the oil wells.

Even worse, a ruined road is a problem that cash-strapped Goshen County cannot afford to fix with its current tax revenues.

In an era when rebuilding a paved road can cost more than $1 million a mile, the annual maintenance and construction budget for the Goshen County Road and Bridge Department is a meager $1.6 million.

That’s enough money to build about a mile and a half of road, but only if the county stopped all spending for necessities like snowplowing and grading.

... “It takes about 30 or 40 days to bring in all the materials to start the (fracking) process,” said Goshen County Road and Bridge Department superintendent Gary Korrel.

During that time trucks are constantly delivering material to the site.

“Once they have all the materials there it only takes three or four days to frack,” Korrel said.

Korrel estimates a well requires 6,600 tons of gravel for the well pad, plus 4 million pounds (2,000 tons) of frack sand and chemicals, which are injected into the production zone of the well to break apart the rock so oil can flow into the well.

Doll said the Niobrara oil wells completed so far have required an average of 1.2 million gallons of water to frack. If there is no local source of water it must be hauled in by tanker-truck at about 3,750 gallons a load. That makes for an estimated 320 semi-truck trips, and a major impact on county roads.


Local officials know their rural roads were never meant to handle this kind of industrial traffic.

“We’ve seen some of the roads disintegrate. These roads were designed for pickups and horse trailers, not the 100,000-pound loads we’re seeing,” Teeters said.

Laramie County Road and Bridge Supervisor Don Beard said bad weather conditions worsen the damage caused by heavy trucks.

“They don’t care if the road is frozen, if it’s raining, or snowing, too hot, too dry, too windy, or too cold. They’ll operate on those roads and that’s where the damage begins to occur,” Beard said.

The combination of weight and weather is a good recipe for destroying cheaply built dirt and gravel roads. Some of the rural roads in Goshen County are built of dirt with a three-inch gravel surface. While this is sufficient for most current use, according to Korrel, a road that can sustain heavy oilfield traffic should have a thicker gravel base of 6 to 8 inches.

The paved roads of Goshen County are also at risk.

“Our single biggest concern is the oiled roads. Those are 30- 50-year-old paved roads, which are still adequate for current use, but are not going to take a lot of added traffic,” said Goshen County commissioner Ross Newman. ... more.






Need mega-tons of gravel for roads and well pads?  No worries, it's Alberta's Renewable Resource.








Aggregate Extraction - Another Threat To Our Groundwater?

The committee is worried removal of the gravel in the triangle of land where the Medicine and Red Deer Rivers join could disrupt the flow of water through the aquifer located there.

MDP Approved Amid Environmental Concerns

By Drew A. Penner, December 11, 2012, Mountain View Gazette

Red Deer County council approved its new municipal development plan unanimously at the Dec. 4 meeting with an eye to bolstering protection for agricultural vitality.

But some Markerville residents are concerned recent amendments to the plan may skew legislation in favour of gravel pit developers.

“We think the way it was written before they made the amendments was stronger,” said Adele McKechnie, one of a handful of Medicine Flats Aquifer Committee members who attended last week’s final vote.

“Is this going to damage water supply? They’ve made it a lot less clear as to who makes that decision.”

The committee is worried removal of the gravel in the triangle of land where the Medicine and Red Deer Rivers join could disrupt the flow of water through the aquifer located there.

“That’s where most of us draw our water from,” she said. “They’ve weakened their protection.”

At issue is a section of the MDP that deals with groundwater.

Section 5.4.2 (b)(i) had read: “Sand and gravel operations shall be required to submit to Red Deer County and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), prior to an application being considered for approval, a hydrogeological assessment prepared by a qualified engineer to confirm the depth of the aquifer and identify mitigative measures that will be undertaken to ensure that the integrity of the Alluvial Aquifer will not be compromised by pit activities.”

McKechnie had sent a public comment requesting a strengthening of the MDP to further outline action in the case of situations that could not be mitigated.

Instead, the “mitigative measures” explanation wording was removed. ... more.



Aggregate Risks: An Ontario Perspective




Watch: Eagle Ford Shale Gas, Oil Companies Fight Back Against Road Repair Fees

Aug 14, 2012 - KENS5 San Antonio

KARNES CITY, TEXAS -- Many counties within the Eagle Ford Shale play receive "donations" from oil companies or have "gentleman agreements" to provide materials for road repair. But officials in several South Texas counties estimate it will take hundreds of millions of dollars to fix the roads and bridges that are worn down, ground up, and spit out by 18-wheels of constant use from oil and gas trucks. ... go to video clip.


Study: $7 Billion Bill for North Dakota Road Upkeep Over 20 Years

The study was limited to county and township roads, and did not include state-maintained highways, North Dakota's two interstates or the cost of maintaining bridges.

By DALE WETZEL, Associated Press – September 21, 2012 

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota's county and township roads, which have been pounded by truck traffic amid a flourishing state economy, will cost $7 billion to maintain over the next two decades, a new study estimates.

The survey, done by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University, says $834 million is needed during the next two years alone. About two-thirds of that should be used in western North Dakota's booming oil-producing region, the study says.

... It shows that legislators will have plenty of spending demands on the state's oil-driven budget surplus, which is expected to reach $1.6 billion by June.



In 2010, the institute did a similar survey of county and township road construction and repair needs. It recommended spending $654 million on road upkeep during the following two years, including $356 million for roads in North Dakota's oil region. Lawmakers responded by boosting spending on the state's road network.


Denver Tolliver, the transportation institute's director, attributed the 28 percent rise in recommended support for roads in the last two years to skyrocketing construction costs and an 80 percent increase in the number of oil wells that state regulators expect will be drilled in western North Dakota.





North Dakota had about 7,300 producing oil wells in July, according to the state Department of Mineral Resources. The agency has upped the number of wells it expects to be drilled in the next two decades from 21,000 to about 46,000, Tolliver said.

'There have been some very significant changes since we did the (earlier) studies,' Tolliver said.

The study was limited to county and township roads, and did not include state-maintained highways, North Dakota's two interstates or the cost of maintaining bridges. ... more.


Not So Easy to 'Whack the Fracks,' Mountain View County Council Hears

'... 60 per cent of the volume of the field is taken out the first year with zero dollars in royalty payments. So the province hasn’t made money on this either'

By John Gleeson, Sep 13, 2011, Mountain View Gazette

Whacking the fracking operations in Mountain View County for damage to roads and other county infrastructure will not be as easy as imposing a new tax on wells, council learned at last Wednesday’s meeting.

Last month, Reeve Paddy Munro had urged council to start “whacking” hydraulic fracturing projects to the tune of $25,000 per well to pay for infrastructure repairs – but a report from administration presented last week ruled out any simple options.

Well drilling equipment tax rates are set provincially and the county cannot charge more than the minister authorizes, Jeff Holmes, director of legislative, community and agricultural services, told council.

The county could increase its linear tax rate, applied on pipelines and wells, but under the Municipal Government Act it would also have to increase the rate for other non-residential and non-agricultural properties, Holmes said.

A special tax could be considered on an area-wide basis, but it too would have to apply to other, unrelated activities in the same area, he said.

And a business tax, levied according to specific classes of business, could be introduced but it would have to replace linear and machinery/equipment taxes and “the county may not come out ahead of our current tax structure.”

While the county can increase its inspection fees and pipeline crossing fees, “taxation of the oil and gas industry is primarily regulated by the Alberta government to ensure that oil and gas operators are treated equitably throughout the province,” Holmes reported.

Business licensing fees could be another possible avenue but would have to be investigated, the report said – adding, however: “It may be difficult to assess a business licence fee based on the number of individual wells completed.”

After receiving the report, Munro thanked Holmes for the information.

“But,” he added, “I wanna figure out how we can tax these guys. If you can’t do it let us know and we’ll get somebody who can.”

CAO Tony Martens agreed it was a serious issue – but if there are no fees that can legally be charged, he said, there would be no reason to hire a consultant to confirm that finding.

“We need to build allies in this,” Div. 4 Coun. Bruce Beattie said, noting the county’s bottom line is that “63 per cent of our revenues are related to oil and gas” taxes.

“I think we have to review our road fees and make sure they’re in line (but) I don’t support at this point engaging a consultant … We’ll have a lot more success if we do it from a provincial perspective,” Beattie said.

Div. 1 Coun. Kevin Good said the problem with waiting for the province to do something is the government’s slow reaction time.

“Everyone knows a 15-stage frack is the equivalent of eight or nine wells (in its impact) but the province is treating it as one well. We need to do what we can until they get up to speed. The biggest problem I see is they treat something with 10 times the impact as a regular well,” Good said.

Munro said oil companies do not pay the government any royalties during the first year of a project.

“What consultants have told me is that 60 per cent of the volume of the field is taken out the first year with zero dollars in royalty payments. So the province hasn’t made money on this either,” Munro said. ... more.


Report Details Fracking's Economic Toll on Local Communities

They range from the expense of supplying clean water to households with contaminated wells to emergency response for highway accidents involving heavy trucks.

By Sue Sturgis, September 21, 2012, Southern Studies

The environmental and health risks of fracking for natural gas — including contaminated water and polluted air — have been well-documented. But the controversial drilling practice that involves injecting water and chemicals into underground rock to release trapped natural gas also comes with a steep price tag for local communities.

Water buffaloes. What people are relying on after their safe water is destroyed.Those costs are examined in a new report from Environment America titled 'The Cost of Fracking: The Price Tag of Dirty Drilling’s Environmental Damage.' They range from the expense of supplying clean water to households with contaminated wells to emergency response for highway accidents involving heavy trucks.

'Fracking’s environmental damage is bad enough, but it turns out that this dirty drilling imposes heavy dollar and cents costs as well,' says John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America Research & Policy Center and a co-author of the report. 'And in many cases, the public will be left holding the bag for those costs.'

The Environment America report looks at the experience of communities where fracking is taking place to get a sense of the potential costs:

* In Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale region, air pollution from fracking operations imposes health costs estimated to cost $9.8 million annually.

* A 2010 study in Texas found that houses valued at more than $250,000 that were located within 1,000 feet of a well site saw their property values fall by 3 to 14 percent.

* In Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, a 2011 survey of eight counties found a significant increase in 911 calls in seven of them. In one of those counties the calls increased by 49 percent over three years, largely due to trucking accidents.

The report comes as several states and local communities are considering bans or moratoria on fracking.

… Mayor Darryl Moss of Creedmoor, N.C. — a community in the central part of the state targeted for shale gas development — is concerned about the costs of training the local volunteer fire department to handle environmental accidents. 'In terms of trying to figure out how to get them the equipment they need in order to respond to an environment they don’t have to respond to today — we are looking at millions of dollars just on that piece of it alone,' Moss says. Environmental America believes fracking should not be allowed based on the environmental and health costs.

… 'Our review of the evidence convinces us that fracking is inherently destructive and costly,' says Rumpler. 'But if companies like Exxon, Chesapeake, and Halliburton want to assert otherwise, then they should put their money where their mouths are; at a minimum, that means big-time bonds so the public isn’t left holding the bag.' ... more.


Dawson Creek Faces Joys, Challenges of Second Boom

'The drug dealers and pimps had a business plan, ...  We didn’t.'

By Troy Media, August 22, 2012

But the increased oil and gas activity has a darker side.

… Many people – often single men – are in the area only temporarily and never become a part of the fabric of the community. Sure, they contribute to the local economy by paying for such things as hotels and restaurants. But they are not taxpayers. While they use the amenities, such as roads, sewers, water and electricity, police, fire, and health services, the costs for such services are borne solely by local taxpayers.

And crime, drugs, and prostitution almost always accompany large groups of single men with lots of money.

Dawson Creek is no different. 'When we knew the industry was coming, we wanted to be prepared,' says Jane Harper, Executive Director for the South Peace Community Resources Society in Dawson Creek. 'We talked to the province, to our MLA, to provincial associations, to the Children and Family divisions, but there was no new money for services. 'The drug dealers and pimps had a business plan,” she laments. 'We didn’t.' ... more.


As Bakken Oil Booms, Police Agencies Prepare for Change

Mercer Armstrong with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the areas of southern Canada within the Bakken have seen a 'major influx of criminality.' 

APRIL 23, 2012,  Associated Press

GLASGOW — Drug crimes in Eastern Montana have more than doubled. Assaults in Dickinson, N.D., have increased fivefold in just two years. And the once-sleepy town of Plentywood has seen three assaults with weapons in the past few months — a prospect previously unheard of in the tiny community tucked against the Canada border.

Booming oil production has brought tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues to communities across a wide expanse of the Northern Plains. But it also has brought more crime, forcing law enforcement from the U.S. and Canada to deal with spiking offenses ranging from drug trafficking and gun crimes to prostitution.

The rural region is emerging as one of the top oil producing areas of North America. Officials say up to 30,000 more workers could descend on the Bakken oil fields of Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan in the next few years.

The recent kidnapping and brutal murder of Montana teacher Sherry Arnold tragically underscored the changes brought on by the rapid pace of drilling. Two men are in custody, but the case has left residents shaken and led to a huge rise in applications to carry concealed weapons in Montana and North Dakota.

In the wake of Arnold's killing in the town of Sidney, which is quickly being overtaken by the boom, federal prosecutors began a two-day retreat Monday in Glasgow for about 150 police, sheriffs, federal agents and other law enforcement to craft a common strategy to deal with rising crime.

Towns like Plentywood, population 1,600, were until recently places "you could send your kids to the pool in the summertime on their bikes and not have to worry about it," said Sheridan County Attorney Steven Howard.

"All those things are changing," he said, adding that the Arnold case "has had a chilling effect on our people."

Monday's conference already was being planned before Arnold's death, said Michael Cotter, the U.S. attorney for Montana. But Cotter said the killing illustrated the importance of close coordination among law enforcement as officials gird for more crime.

Government officials predict the boom could last another decade or more as companies tap into a reserve estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey to hold more than 4 billion barrels of crude. Oil company executives say there's even more, upwards of 20 billion barrels that will be extracted using drilling techniques that were only recently perfected.

Towns like Dickinson already have seen the negative spinoff effects from workers hoping to cash in on the boom. For many agricultural communities, including Plentywood, officials say the changes have just begun.

The situation is exacerbated by a housing shortage that is spurring the construction of sprawling "man camps" that can accommodate hundreds of out-of-state oil workers.

The suspects in Arnold's killing — 48-year-old Lester Van Waters and 22-year-old Michael Spell — allegedly traveled to the Bakken from Colorado in search of jobs in the oil patch. Court records suggest Spell and Waters had been smoking crack cocaine and were living out of Waters' vehicle when they snatched Arnold off a Sidney street in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 7.

Industry representatives say companies go to lengths to ensure the workers they hire won't cause trouble — either on the job or in the community.

Drug tests and background checks are standard for many companies, said Kari Cutting with North Dakota Petroleum Council. She added the lack of housing can quickly deter would-be workers who show up without a position already secured.

Cutting noted that neither Spell nor Waters was employed by the oil industry, and the two had been in the region only a short time before the alleged crime.

"We do know there are challenges," she said. "Any opportunity has challenges that need to be overcome, and we want to be part of the solution in all this."

Some law enforcement officials, including Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier, said the increase in crime has roughly tracked the increase in population, meaning the actual rate of offenses has been little changed.

"You have to put it into perspective. Ninety-nine percent of the people (working the oil fields) will be an asset to the community," he said.

Yet there are indications that communities and several Indian reservations in the Northern Plains have found themselves dealing with new types of crime more commonly associated with urban areas. Organized drug trafficking and prostitution rings top the list, officials said.

Mercer Armstrong with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the areas of southern Canada within the Bakken have seen a "major influx of criminality." That includes organized criminal enterprises from British Columbia moving into rural areas to establish the drug trade, he said. ... more.


Cardium Cartel? - Large Organized Crime Network With Ties To Rocky View County Shut Down

The group, which is believed to have ties to British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, were also in possession of a property in RVC valued at $1.5 million.

By: Carolyn McTighe, Oct 31, 2012, Cochrane Eagle

After an extensive, long-term investigation, Calgary’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU- Calgary) and the Calgary RCMP Integrated Proceeds of Crime (IPOC) Unit have arrested a number of people in connection with an ongoing criminal organization investigation with ties to Rocky View County (RVC).

On May 18, after receiving information about a group believed to be trafficking cocaine and marijuana in the Calgary region, the CFSEU-Calgary and IPOC executed search warrants at eight separate locations and seized 2.7 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $270,000 and one kilogram of marijuana worth $10,000.

In addition to drugs, there were also a number of weapons seized including one handgun, one shotgun and a conducted energy device (taser).

The group, which is believed to have ties to British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, were also in possession of a property in RVC valued at $1.5 million. ... more.


OGC wraps up Sour Gas Leak Investigation

... more than a dozen residents of the Tomslake area fled their homes in response to a cloud of toxic hydrogen sulphide gas.

By Energetic City.ca, December 18, 2009

The CBC is reporting, an investigation into last month’s natural gas leak in the South Peace, might have been the result of some pipeline abrasion caused by sand going through the line.

It sites a preliminary statement from the BC Oil and Gas Commmission on its investigation into the sour gas leak at well site of Calgary based EnCana Corporation.

Recall more than a dozen residents of the Tomslake area fled their homes in response to a cloud of toxic hydrogen sulphide gas.  

That was during the morning of November 22nd and the commission statement says, the damaged pipe leaked sour gas for at least an hour, before an alarm sounded.

It also says, it took EnCana shut down crews, about two hours, to arrive at the scene. ... more.


Failure Investigation Report: Failure of Piping at EnCana Swan Wellsite A5-7-77-14 L W6M

... internal erosion of the wall resulting from flowing fracture sand suspended in the gas stream.  

By the BC Oil and Gas Commission, February 4, 2010.

The 22 November 2009 failure … was caused by internal erosion of the wall resulting from flowing fracture sand suspended in the gas stream.  

Leak detection and emergency isolation at the site did not achieve timely detection of the leak or control of the escaping gas.

EnCana’s integrity management program did not effectively mitigate the hazard of internal erosion. ... more.


 Gas Well Emergencies Are Real; Don't Dismiss Them

... corrosive sand in the pipeline of a newly producing well caused a small rupture in a valve and allowed water and natural gas to escape.

An unexpected natural gas release on Friday at a Carrizo Oil & Gas well near Debbie Lane and Matlock Road . Photo - Arlington Fire DepartmentTexas - Star Telegram, March. 26, 2012, 

Note to Rusty Ward, Carrizo Oil & Gas vice president of regulatory affairs: Whenever there is a malfunction at one of your company's wells like the one that happened near two schools in Mansfield on Friday, take it very seriously.

The initial report from Carrizo said a valve began leaking just before 8 a.m., venting an estimated 3,400 cubic feet of natural gas and about two barrels of water from the well on Debbie Lane near Matlock Road. The well produces about 6 million cubic feet of natural gas a day.

"That small amount of gas was completely on top of the atmosphere by the time you got to the wall of the drill site," Ward told Star-Telegram reporter Susan Schrock. "There was never any danger to a kid or residents."

That's a little too dismissive.

It's always dangerous when gas leaks from one of the hundreds of wells near Tarrant County neighborhoods and schools. Initial reports from Carrizo and fire officials said corrosive sand in the pipeline of a newly producing well caused a small rupture in a valve and allowed water and natural gas to escape.

Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson, whose personnel were called to the site to assist Mansfield firefighters, said primary and secondary safety valves failed before a third valve finally shut off the high-pressure leak after about 20 minutes. No gas was detected in the neighborhoods or schools downwind.

Ward apparently saw no need for any great concern.

A leak at a well site is a bad thing, and it's an even bigger problem when not just one but two safety systems fail to shut it down.

... Crowson takes such things very seriously. He recently persuaded the Arlington City Council to approve a gas well emergency preparedness and response plan.

The city will charge gas companies $2,397 per well to pay for part of the plan.

With that money, Arlington will create positions for a new fire captain, a gas well inspector and six additional firefighters, as well as pay for their specialized training in dealing with gas well emergencies.

Separately, the city will pay for that kind of training for 42 additional firefighters.

The idea is to draw up emergency action plans for each of the about 300 well sites in Arlington.

... Friday's leak at the Mansfield well delivers a simple message, Crowson says: "Things do happen at well sites." ... more.


Rocky View County 'Downgrading Fire Protection and Public Safety' as Fracking Ramps Up?

'Fire protection and public safety is the last thing a fast-growing municipality that wants to attract additional growth should be downgrading, not the first.'

By Dawn Smith, Mar 12, 2012, Rocky View Weekly

... According to the AFFA, firefighter layoffs, of which there have been 17 in the past two months, account for 64 per cent of the $1.7 million the County is saying the recent layoffs and restructuring will save them. (See related story on page 1).

“The fire department has definitely been targeted, which is worrisome,” said Macdonald. “Fire protection and public safety is the last thing a fast-growing municipality that wants to attract additional growth should be downgrading, not the first.” ... more.



Well Blowout Hythe, Alberta - February 24, 2010

Sour Gas Well Blows Out, Burns in Northwest Alberta - February 24, 2010

'So at this point, there is absolutely no risk to public health or safety from this well. ... In fact, we don't know if there's any sour gas flowing from this well at all'

CBC News, February 24, 2010 

A sour gas well blew out Wednesday morning and was burning throughout the day northwest of Hythe, Alta.

The well, which is owned by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., caught fire around 3 a.m. local time while a crew was drilling on the site. No one was hurt. The cause of the blowout hasn't yet been determined.

"You can see a plume of dark grey to black smoke coming over top of the trees, you can't smell anything at all," said Hythe Mayor Gary Burgess.

"Something like this is definitely a concern. I just hope that we find out more about it soon, so we know where we're at. And if there is … no threats or reasons to be concerned, then we need to know that, too."

The closest home is more than seven kilometres away, outside the well's 400-metre emergency planning zone, said Bob Curran, a spokesperson for the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB).

"So at this point, there is absolutely no risk to public health or safety from this well," Curran said.

"In fact, we don't know if there's any sour gas flowing from this well at all," he said, adding that the fire makes assessing that difficult.

... Curran believes that the fire might be burning off the outflow. Sour gas contains hydrogen sulphide, a toxic and flammable substance.

The blowout occurred a few kilometres from a Canadian Superior Energy sour gas testing site where people from Trickle Creek Farm have been holding a protest vigil against gas drilling.

"It's rather providential that this thing blew up while we were protesting, insofar as it punctuates our concerns," said Wiebo Ludwig, the leader of the community and a convicted pipeline bomber.

"They told us we'd better get out of there about 6:30 this morning," he said. "The reaction time is awful because it started apparently at 3:30 already, and we didn't hear about it until 6:30."

Some members of the community used snowmobiles to get close enough to the blowout to get photographs, Ludwig said.

"Everything is burning there, the whole well site, all the trailers too are getting set on fire," he said. "We have reasons to worry when we're surrounded by that kind of development here." ... more. 


Well Blowout Update - February 25, 2010

... at this point authorities don’t know if any sour gas is flowing from the well

Energetic City.ca, February 25, 2010

... the closest home is more than seven kilometers away and that is well outside the emergency planning zone of 400 meters.

Thus, Bob Curran of the Energy Resources Conservation Board has again offered public assurance, the well poses no health or safety risk.

He’s confirmed the well was targeting sweet gas, but under Alberta regulations had to be licensed as a sour gas well just in case pockets of toxic hydrogen sulphide were encountered during the drilling process.

He adds at this point authorities don’t know if any sour gas is flowing from the well ... more.


Northern Alberta Gas Blowout Tough to Tame - March 3, 2010

There is a possibility that the cause of the blowout could be deep underground.

Edmonton Journal, March 3, 2010

EDMONTON — A natural gas well in northwestern Alberta that blew out into flames on Feb. 24 is still burning, and workers believe the rupture may be far beneath the ground.

Davis Sheremata, a spokesman for the Energy Resources Conservation Board, said progress has been made working on the Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. site.

"They have finally cleared the sub-structure out of the way and exposed the wellhead," he said Wednesday. "We are still not 100 per cent sure what caused this."

There is a possibility that the cause of the blowout could be deep underground.

To fix it, workers have brought a drilling rig to the site to dig a relief well. That new dig will be 600 metres away from the current well.

"It could be a few more days, to be honest," Sheremata said. ... more.


Hythe Gas Blowout Finally Extinguished - March 12, 2010

'Luckily, they were able to stop the flow of gas ... from this well.'

CBC News Friday, March 12, 2010

A blowout and fire at a gas well near Hythe in northwest Alberta has been brought under control after more than two weeks.

The well, licenced to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., exploded around 3 a.m. on Feb. 24.

Emergency crews at the site have installed new equipment to prevent blowouts and pumped drilling mud down the hole, ending the gas flow.

"Usually when you see something like this in Alberta, they get control of it very quickly," said Bob Curran, a spokesperson for the Energy Resources Conservation Board.

'In this case, just due to the nature of what happened, it took a little bit longer," he said. "Luckily, they were able to stop the flow of gas [Friday] from this well." ... more.


EnCana Corporation Facing Criminal Charges

The Ministry of Environment has charged EnCana following a sour gas leak in November 2009.

By Adam Reaburn Energetic City, September 28, 2010.

The Ministry of Environment has charged EnCana following a sour gas leak in November 2009.

The Ministry has filed two charges against the company. The company is charged with introducing business-related waste into the environment and failing to report a spill of a polluting substance.

… The leak was caused after sand had eroded a piece of pipeline infrastructure, called a ‘Tee’. ... more.


Public Inquiry Requested Into Pouce Coupe Gas Leak

... even if EnCana followed every step, it wouldn’t have been enough.

By Christine Rumleskie Energetic City

Concerned South Peace residents are generating support for a proposed public inquiry into a gas leak that happened late 2009.

Members of the Peace Environment and Safety Trustees explained the idea to Peace River Regional District directors on Thursday afternoon.

On November 22nd, a gas leak occurred at an EnCana well site, forcing the evacuation of 15 nearby residents. A report by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission concluded that a combination of sand and a high-velocity gas stream eroded a well site tee, which ruptured and caused the gas release.

Spokesperson Lois Hill says the group now has no confidence in industry emergency protocol, the reporting protocol or the report of events conducted by the B.C. OGC.

The OGC report also found that EnCana did not follow proper protocol in its emergency program. But Hill says even if EnCana followed every step, it wouldn’t have been enough.

While there are no ‘official’ reports of injury as a result of the leak, Hill claims one woman is being treated for lung damage and one horse died.

Hill even claims that EnCana has paid the unidentified woman to replace the horse, and has sent her to Calgary for treatment. ... more.


Health Risks Are Real, Say Residents 

'they’ve recognized it [the health concerns], but because there is such a huge pool of money coming in from the natural gas resources here, it is just an ad-lib or something just to pacify the people and keep them quiet'

By Matthew Bains, Staff Writer, Alaska Highway News,  June 9, 2012

Glenda and Pat Wagar are all too aware of the human health risks posed by unconventional natural gas development in the Peace Region.

For the couple, who live just south of Pouce Coupe, those concerns are not just a fear of the unknown, but a first-hand knowledge of what exposure to potentially deadly “sour” gas containing hydrogen sulphide (H2S) can have on the body and the mind.

Glenda said she is still living with the effects of that exposure from a gas leak that occurred at a wellsite a few hundred metres from their home in November, 2009.

“I have vertigo problems, and my lungs still hurt,” she said. “It hurts all the time, there’s a pain there, but it definitely gets worse when I exercise.”

“We used to go out for walks all the time… and we would be talking all the time as we walked along – but we go for walks now and she can’t talk and walk at the same time, she loses her breath,” her husband added.

Glenda said she has seen medical professionals about her persistent health problems and they cannot tell her if it will get better over time.

“They have no idea,” she said. “They said H2S is known to cause neurological damage, but it’s never the same twice. They don’t know how bad it will be, whether it will get worse, stay the same or get better. I have no idea what my health is going to look like in the future, but I know right now it sucks.”

A loud noise like a jet engine was the first indication she said she had that something was wrong at about 3 a.m. on Nov. 22, 2009. Then it was the smell of H2S, like rotten eggs.

“We weren’t notified, we noticed it ourselves,” she said.

“In the beginning, I didn’t recognize what it was, I kept running outside trying to figure out what it was. Then at five to nine [a.m.] or whatever it was, a hunter came, honking his horn and driving through the yard saying, ‘Get out! Get out! You’re in a cloud!’”

They did leave their home after that and stopped at the end of their road to call 9-1-1 from there, but did not get much help.

“They really didn’t know, there was no procedure, no set plan like, ‘This is what you’re going to do’ …it was mass confusion,” she said.

She said she then started phoning her neighbours, but the responses indicated they were just as unprepared for what to do in a gas leak as she and her husband were.

“Nobody was prepared, it was confusion.”

They were eventually told they were to gather at a mustering point, which they did, and it wasn’t until about 1 p.m. that they were told it was safe to return home, though a heavy odour still lingered there.

A BC Oil and Gas Commission investigation into the incident found the well was not successfully shut-in until 10:45 a.m., and as a result, about 30,000 cubic metres of natural gas was released, with the concentration of H2S measuring 6,200 parts per million at the time of the leak.

Glenda said she began noticing the effects of that exposure immediately.

“At that time, myself and few other people had really itchy eyes and a really harsh cough, and are throats were just burning,” she said.

“Three days later, I still couldn’t get rid of the cough and the burning and so I went into the doctor, and he said it was like being in smoke and it was lung damage, but that it would clear up in two or three months. They had no idea what a gas leak is. He kept asking: ‘Was it gas in your house?’ and he had no idea what H2S was, so the doctors weren’t prepared either.”

“The one doctor in Edmonton asked me how come I wasn’t treated properly right of the bat. I still don’t know what ‘treated properly’ is because nobody has ever treated me,” she added.

She said Encana, the operator of the wellsite in question, never offered her any kind of compensation for her injuries.

“They paid for one trip to Calgary to see a doctor they chose and paid for, who of course said he didn’t see anything wrong. The other doctor saw infiltrates in my lungs and definitely breathing problems.”

She added her horses were affected as well.

“We had a couple of young horses die, and then we had a bunch of mares pregnant that were ready to foal, but then all of a sudden there was nothing, no foals.”

For his part, Pat said he hasn’t had any lingering health effects, other than he now commonly wakes up with a stuffed nose, which he had not experienced before. However, they both said there are psychological effects to going through an incident like that.

“You’re living under anxiety all of the time. This happened once, now when is it going to happen again?” said Pat.

“It’s just really nasty, it causes a lot of stress and a lot of ongoing problems. I get nightmares, I wake up at night and I’m listening for noises,” added Glenda.

“They opened up a new well with a bunch of flaring, and you can hear people talking and the thump of the machinery, and you just lay awake wondering when it’s going to cause more damage.”

The incident near Pouce Coupe, and the fact there was no redress for the injuries that were reported, prompted the call for public health inquiry into the incident that led to the provincial government establishing an Oil and Gas Human Health Risk Assessment this year.

Glenda said she participated in phase one of that assessment by outlining her concerns and submitting them in a letter to the Fraser Basin Council, but she never received confirmation that letter had been received. She said she would like to see further setback distances for wells drilled near homes, and better emergency preparedness.

“We need our medical professionals to be aware of what is going on and what the risks are, and we need a better emergency plan so that if you have a scare or a smell, there is a procedure that people can go – ‘Okay, this is what I can do,’” she said.

However, both Glenda and her husband said they are not very confident any substantive changes will be forthcoming from government or industry as a result of the health risk assessment.

“Yeah, they’ve recognized it [the health concerns], but because there is such a huge pool of money coming in from the natural gas resources here, it is just an ad-lib or something just to pacify the people and keep them quiet,” said Pat. ... more.


$250,000 in Community Safety Projects Following Encana Sour Gas Leak

Through open discussions, participants determined it would be appropriate for Encana to provide $250,000 to a variety of initiatives in order to compensate for the incident

By Sean Assor, September 12, 2012, Energetic City

On Wednesday, September 12, Encana Corporation announced it will be contributing $250,000 towards community health and safety projects in northeast B.C.

The forum’s focus was the pipeline failure which took place on November 22, 2009, resulting in a sour gas leak at an Encana well, located close to Pouce Coupe.

According to Encana, the failure resulted from internal erosion of a pipe wall, which was caused by the suspension of sand within the gas stream.

The recently held forum gathered representatives of the parties impacted by the leak, also including employees and community members from Pouce Coupe and the Tomslake area.

Through open discussions, participants determined it would be appropriate for Encana to provide $250,000 to a variety of initiatives in order to compensate for the incident.

Such initiatives include multiple equipment upgrades for the Pouce Coupe Fire Department, including one-third of the cost of a rural interface fire truck, along with emergency evacuation preparedness at Tomslake’s Tate Creek Community Centre and wetlands environmental enhancement projects to be overseen by Ducks Unlimited Canada within the South Peace Region. ... more.



'Industry People Have Threatened Me': AB Air Pollution Campaigner

Emissions from the tanks have sickened scores of residents and cattle in the community of Three Creek just 30 km northeast of Peace River for nearly a decade.

By Andrew Nikiforuk March 14, 2012, The Tyee

A 49-year-old rancher battling air pollution in Alberta’s Peace River country hopes a high profile meeting with four Alberta government ministries and two local MLAs will result in some concrete changes this Friday.

Carmen Langer, a former oil patch worker, has fought for years to get companies to control the venting of solution gases and toxic chemicals from hundreds of heated tanks full of bitumen dotted around Alberta’s third largest bitumen deposit.

Emissions from the tanks have sickened scores of residents and cattle in the community of Three Creek just 30 km northeast of Peace River for nearly a decade.

“It’s been hell for the last couple of years. I'm traumatized by all this. Industry people have threatened me,” he told The Tyee in a phone interview.

Last week Langer says a Grand Prairie RCMP officer and plainclothes investigator paid Langer a visit saying they had heard rumors about bomb threats to the oil sands industry.

“I said someone is blowing smoke up your ass and we talked it out,” said Langer. “These people even called my relatives in Calgary to see if I was crazy.”

(The RCMP now routinely visit farmers, ranchers and First Nations who have civilly complained about oil and gas operations in Alberta and BC). ... more. 

From the comments to article:

Can you please clarify?

Was Mr. Langer saying that the RCMP were threatening him, or were the people generating the rumours of the bomb the ones threatening him and calling his family in Calgary?

Can you tell us why the RCMP routinely visit people who have made civil complaints?

I read your article with one understanding of what you meant, and then realized from the comments that it could be taken differently. I think clarification of these two points would be helpful.


Clarification: The RCMP

The RCMP who visited Carmen Langer's property, told the rancher that someone said he was "dangerous" and that they must check him out. The RCMP also called Langer's family in Calgary, as Langer put it, "to see if I was crazy."

In the last couple of years the RCMP have visited scores of landowners in BC and Alberta after they have raised civil and public complaints about polluting facilities. Most describe the visits as "intimidating."

During the bombing campaign against EnCana between 2008 and 2010, the RCMP not only investigated landowners around Dawson Creek, the scene of the bombings, but interviewed landowners as far away as Calgary. Anyone who had filed a complaint against EnCana in the past appears to have been visited by the RCMP. This is an abuse of the police, pure and simple.

To my knowledge the RCMP has yet to visit the owner of a sour gas plant or leaking tanker farms to see if their dangerous emissions killed cattle, violated trespass or criminal laws or posed cancer risks to those downwind.

Andrew Nikiforuk



The Intimidation Of Jessica Ernst



Canada Quits EnCana Pipeline Bomber Hunt

Residents had to organise an evacuation on their own, after a farmer drove through a cloud of poison gas.

EnCana apologised for the incident stating that “clearly, procedures were not followed”. But no one was charged over the accident which was more dangerous to the public than so-called acts of terrorism.

… residents say many of their larger concerns about the industry’s environmental impact have not been addressed

By Chris Arsenault, November 12, 2010, Aljazeera

From his farm house in northern Canada, Tim Ewert has watched hundreds of elite security forces hunt the bomber responsible for attacking six gas installations in the past two years.

Then, he says, he watched most of Canada’s famed mounted police pack up and head home without catching their man.

… The sabotage campaign led EnCana, North America’s largest extractor of natural gas and the exclusive target of the attacks, to offer a $1mn reward for information leading to the saboteur’s conviction. It is reportedly tied for the largest award ever offered in Canadian history. The stakes are high.

The first attack hit a gas pipeline in October 2008, days after local media and corporate officials received threatening, hand-written letters demanding that EnCana “close down operations [and stop] endangering our families with crazy expansion of deadly gas wells in our homelands”.

... But through a series of interviews with people in the affected areas, Al Jazeera has learned that security forces have all-but-given-up on their hunt for the bomber.

“It all happened very suddenly,” said Ewert, who lives in the small community of Tomslake at the epicentre of the sabotage campaign. “Police pulled off our road and removed the [video] cameras.”

“It is a little odd how this thing has gone from a heightened state of emergency to ‘no problem at all’,” says the organic farmer, who police once considered a suspect in the bombings because he complained about pollution and safety violations committed by the gas industry.

While security forces maintain that they have not closed the case, Sgt. Darren Traichevich, a spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Dawson Creek, admits they have “scaled back patrols in the area”.

He would not comment on the removal of security cameras or “what was taken down – if anything”.

This is a marked change from 2009 when an estimated 250 elite officers from Canada’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team [INSET], including a sniper who was apparently flown back from Afghanistan to help with the operation, scoured the back-roads around Tomslake and Pouce Coupe in northeastern British Columbia province, searching for the saboteur.

Traichevich says police are now “passing information on to INSET in Vancouver” – a 16 hour drive from the crime scene INSET is supposed to be investigating.

... “A lot of people around here are subscribing to the theory that it [sabotage] was a corporate and police thing and there was never a local person involved,” Ewert says. “People believe the whole thing was orchestrated.”

While the rumours may seem outlandish, they are not without precedent; a similar sabotage situation unfolded in neighbouring Alberta province during the late 1990s.

… Court documents show that police themselves bombed one of the AEC [now EnCana] sites, in Operation Kabriole, as a ploy to gain credibility for an informant.

….police participation in sabotage did not win them respect in local communities.

… According to police files which came out during Ludwig’s trial, AEC helped directly plan the attack, with company officials meeting police officers.

In 2002, AEC merged with PanCanadian to form EnCana – the firm which has been the exclusive target of the recent attacks in British Columbia.

Traichevich says the RCMP has “learned a few lessons” since it blew-up infrastructure in Alberta, but refused to comment further on the AEC debacle or the fear and mistrust it caused in rural communities.

‘Psychology of fear’

A climate of fear, however, is not all bad for oil exporters.

Internal documents from Canadian security forces marked “confidential” obtained by Al Jazeera through an Access to Information request, show that Canada’s western provinces, Alberta and British Columbia, both of which are petroleum exporters, could benefit from a “market psychology of fear” and “geopolitical premium on oil prices” which increases energy revenues when threats against the industry are made by “terrorists”. 

... “The biggest worry where I live would be water use [from the petroleum industry],” says Gwen Johansson, a municipal councilor in Hudson’s Hope in northern British Columbia.

An October 2010 study from the University of Toronto says that Canada’s gas boom could be threatened by a lack of water, and government regulators have not “raised any substantive questions about [shale gas'] impact on water resources”.

Johansson says federal and provincial governments “abdicate responsibility … because revenue [royalty dollars and campaign contributions] comes from the oil and gas industry. The government pays more attention to them than other sectors”.

Public safety

Throughout their investigations into the bombings, police and corporate officials repeatedly stated that the saboteur was jeopardising public safety.

But protecting the public is not the authorities’ main concern, Ewert says. “Last November, a gas well near our house corroded and exploded, releasing deadly sour gas into the air.”

“Supposedly the police and EnCana were on high alert, but it took EnCana two hours to respond,” to a safety breach which released far more gas than all six bombings combined.

“It took the police an hour to send one car,” Ewert says, adding that local residents, who believe security forces played a role in the bombings, took the slow response to mean officials knew the leak was not caused by a saboteur.

Residents had to organise an evacuation on their own, after a farmer drove through a cloud of poison gas.

EnCana apologised for the incident stating that “clearly, procedures were not followed”. But no one was charged over the accident which was more dangerous to the public than so-called acts of terrorism.

… And, more importantly, residents say many of their larger concerns about the industry’s environmental impact have not been addressed. ... more.


High Methane Levels Shut Down Blown Up B.C. Sawmill  

High levels of methane gas have shut down a Prince George, B.C., planer mill at the site of an explosion that killed two workers and injured two dozen others in April.

The site of an April explosion and fire that destroyed much of the Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George, B.C., now shows methane gas in soil samples. (Andrew Johnson/Canadian Press)By The Canadian Press, June 22, 2012, CBC News

Lakeland Mills spokesman Greg Stewart said Friday that company soil tests detected the methane and prompted a shutdown of the recently reopened planer mill and closure of the mill energy system, which provides heat to some area businesses.

Twenty-eight planer mill employees, who have only been back to their jobs since late May following the blast on April 24, are out of work again, he said.

Stewart said the company had been conducting soil and air tests since the explosion, and that no methane has been discovered in air samples.

“We believe it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he said. “We are acting now to ensure the safety of our employees and will be conducting further tests in the coming week to understand how these findings will apply to our property.”

Stewart said Prince George city and fire department officials say the methane discovery did not pose a danger to people working or living nearby.

The Lakeland sawmill explosion and a blast in January at the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake have been the subject of intense investigations, but their causes have not been determined.

Two workers were killed and about a dozen others were injured in the Burns Lake incident. ... more.


Quebec Averts Disaster, Issues a Moratorium Shortly After 19 Out Of 31 New Wells Found Leaking And Citizens Take A Stand

The migrated gas posed two risks: contamination of nearby aquifers, or the possibility of explosions.

... [Fortunately] the wells were isolated and far from residences

Inspectors Found Leaks At Shale Wells, Government Report Says

By Monique Beaudin, January 18, 2011, Gazette Environment Reporter

Government inspectors found natural gas leaks at nearly a dozen Quebec shale-gas wells in November and December that could potentially have caused water contamination or explosions, says a new document filed with the public consultation into shale-gas development.

Inspectors from the Natural Resources Department visited Quebec’s 31 shale-gas wells during that period, and found they were all in an “acceptable” state, and were well secured. But the inspectors found two kinds of naturalgas leaks during their visits: 19 cases of leaks inside the casing of the well, which is designed to control gas from leaking, and 11 others where gas had migrated outside the well. Of those 11, the gas was found close to the well in all except one case, where it was detected 10 metres from the well, the report said.

The migrated gas posed two risks: contamination of nearby aquifers, or the possibility of explosions.

An explosion could only occur if the gas collected in a closed area, if there were methane concentrations of five to 15 per cent, and if there was a source of ignition, such as a spark, the document says.

Last month, the ministry told the BAPE that leaks had been discovered at 19 wells. It played down the risk of the leaks, saying it was normal for natural gas to escape during drilling, and that the wells were isolated and far from residences. ... more.


Gas-Well Ordeal Finally Ends Well

Forty-three households were involved in the class-action suit, and a lump sum was given to the residents, who then split it. The amount the residents received is confidential ... 

A separate amount was given to Mr. and Mrs. Payne, whose house on English Drive was lifted off its foundation by the explosion.

Ohio Valley Energy and other companies involved with the drilling also paid off Nationwide Insurance, which had the coverage on the Paynes’ home.

By Joan Demirjian, February 16, 2011, Chagrin Valley Times

OHIO - It took three years to reach a settlement and finally closure for residents impacted by a leak from a gas well drilled off English Drive in Bainbridge.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, gas seeped into nearby water wells from the Ohio Valley Energy well and caused an explosion in December 2007 at the home of Richard and Thelma Payne on English Drive.

Residents who joined a lawsuit against the Austintown company now are being compensated for their inconvenience and suffering, according to Chardon attorney Dale Markowitz, who represented them. The case that was filed in Geauga County Common Pleas Court is officially settled, he said.

Forty-three households were involved in the class-action suit, and a lump sum was given to the residents, who then split it. The amount the residents received is confidential, Mr. Markowitz said.

Bainbridge Township, which joined the suit, is to receive $50,000 for replacement of a water well and other expenses at its police station.

A separate amount was given to Mr. and Mrs. Payne, whose house on English Drive was lifted off its foundation by the explosion.

Ohio Valley Energy and other companies involved with the drilling also paid off Nationwide Insurance, which had the coverage on the Paynes’ home.

Any right to recover the $1 million for the waterline that was installed to serve those whose wells were impacted has been waived by Ohio Valley Energy.

“It was a good settlement for the clients,” Mr. Markowitz said.

When he first heard about the explosion at the Payne house, he knew it had to be something to do with faulty drilling, he said. He has worked with gas and oil well leasing all over Northeast Ohio and helped with a number of regulations for drilling, he said. He worked with property owners with leasing for gas and oil wells.

“The neighborhood off Bainbridge Road has no homeowners organization, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources wasn’t going to protect the people,” Mr. Markowitz said. “Our firm has expertise in that area,” he said.

… Residents included those from English and Scotland drives, as well as Kingswood and Kenston Lake drives in the neighboring Kenston Lake subdivision.

… In the case of the Ohio Valley Energy well, the drilling of the gas well allowed gas to migrate from deep below the surface to shallower shale formations where our clients obtained their fresh water from, through the use of their water wells. The gas leaked into the aquifer because of a poor cement job and the failure to vent the high-pressure gas, Mr. Flynn said.

… ODNR had issued orders to monitor the situation but was not taking action to order Ohio Valley Energy to put in a waterline.

… “I definitely think they have to be more careful. The state has to have better control.”

Regarding the three-year ordeal, Mr. Mesmer said,

“Thank goodness it’s over.”


Casey Calls For Federal Help With Gas Explosions In NW PA

After McKean County house explosions, Casey sends letter to Department of Energy asking for help and coordination with local and state officials

... there have been dozens of gas migration incidents in northwestern Pennsylvania recently.  Some of those have led to explosions, leading to injury and the destruction of at least two homes. The belief that the source of the explosions is some type of thermogenic gas migration caused by extensive drilling appears to be widespread. 

March 28, 2011, WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today wrote U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu concerning gas migration-related incidents in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

 After the most recent house explosions in McKean County, Senator Casey called for federal help investigating the explosions and in coordinating with local and state officials to protect public health and safety. ... 

... Dear Secretary Chu:

I am deeply alarmed to learn of yet another gas-migration-related explosion in Pennsylvania.

 According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) Emergency Response Program, there have been dozens of gas migration incidents in northwestern Pennsylvania recently.  Some of those have led to explosions, leading to injury and the destruction of at least two homes.  The belief that the source of the explosions is some type of thermogenic gas migration caused by extensive drilling appears to be widespread. 

Two homes in McKean County (the state leader in drilling permits for oil and gas wells) were destroyed, the first on December 12, 2010, and the second on February 28, 2011.    There have been other non-residential incidents in the Mt. Jewett Borough and a well ignition in Tally-Ho.  While investigations are ongoing, the initial determinations are that these harrowing incidents were not caused by any gas utility issue.

 Rather, it appears that the gas may have migrated from deep underground during periods of high barometric pressure coupled with seismic activity and extensive new deep drilling activities.  The lack of reliable data on old oil and gas wells, which number in tens of thousands, and the deterioration of old well casings may also have contributed to the gas migration. 

The McKean County homes were located about two and half miles from each other in neighborhoods bordering Hedgehog Lane, where oil and gas drilling activities had caused methane gas infiltration into drinking water wells, leading to taste and smell impacts.  

Schreiner Oil, the company involved, was ordered by the PA DEP to restore the water and has been providing bottled water to the impacted neighborhood.  

The explosion of the two houses in close proximity to this troubled area certainly appears to be more than coincidence, yet the phenomenon is poorly understood and there is currently no way of preventing or even predicting when such incidents may occur. ... more.


Fear of fracking: How Public Concerns Put an Energy Renaissance at Risk

Talisman’s Mr. Smith insists that any methane found in water wells is there naturally

By Carrie Tait and Shawn McCarthy, September 6, 2012, The Globe and Mail Report on Business
... While the industry insists fracking itself is safe, industry officials concede shoddy drilling, cementing, and casing techniques can lead to leaks of methane and frack fluid. To guard against that, Talisman Energy Inc., for example, uses two or more layers of cement and steel casing to fortify the well and protect groundwater.
“That’s the real issue that regulators should be focusing on – the integrity of well design and then the integrity of well completions,” said Paul Smith, executive vice-president of Calgary-based Talisman, a company that has placed big bets on shale gas development.
While industry claims that there has been no evidence of fracking fluids contaminating groundwater, they can’t make the same assertion with regard to methane, the basic component of natural gas that has been blamed for tainting well water in dozens of cases.
... Talisman’s Mr. Smith insists that any methane found in water wells is there naturally, and dismisses dramatic scenes of homeowners setting aflame their tap water.
“The old lighting the tap [water on fire]trick – people have been able to do that a hundred of years in Pennsylvania, way before any industry oil and gas exploitation activity took place, because of the naturally occurring methane levels in different parts of Pennsylvania,” Mr. Smith said. “That’s nothing new to people.”
Talisman has drilled over 500 shale natural gas wells in North America and the company’s water tests have shown no evidence of increased methane levels owing to its activity, he said. ... more.

Black Water and Brazenness: Gas Drilling Disrupts Lives, Endangers Health in Bradford County, PA

When her water first turned black overnight, Talisman told her, “that’s because we’re fracking” 

By Iris Marie Bloom, June 16, 2011, Protecting Our Waters
... As this post goes to press, one Granville Summit (Bradford County) woman asked me to remove her name from the story.
Source: Slide from Jessica Ernst's presentation - The Great Getaway: Secrets of a Frac Cover-UpHer family’s water has been bad since November 2008, when Talisman began drilling a well half a mile away.
When her water first turned black overnight, Talisman told her, “that’s because we’re fracking,” when she asked them why.
Subsequent tests showed her water to be high in methane: over 67 mg/l.
Talisman dug her another water well, then another, only to find the water in each successive water well contaminated.
Her family had lived in their home for four years before Marcellus Shale drilling started, with never a problem with their water.  The woman has experienced rashes and dizziness, according to Rebecca Roter of nearby Susquehanna County, who spoke with her recently.  Roter added, “The rashes she described were exactly what the Sautner family, of Dimock, PA, described when their water was contaminated.”
But as often happens in shale country — sometimes because of litigation issues; sometimes out of fear of being shunned for going public with water contamination and/or medical issues; and often because a drilling company demands a non-disclosure agreement be signed in exchange for replacement water — the woman has joined the ranks of the suddenly nameless. ... more.



Rosebud Water Tower Explodes

Investigators say an accumulation of gases appears to have caused the Jan. 11 explosion that destroyed the Rosebud water reservoir building and sent a Wheatland County employee to hospital with injuries.

Map courtesy Jessica Ernst

Rosebud Has Boiled Water Order Following

By Strathmore Standard, January 27, 2005

... Tracy Gooler, Wheatland County constable and manager of protective services, said that the county’s water operator, John Garvin, was endeavoring to thaw out an inlet supply line, to the portable water reservoir in Rosebud, with a propane tiger torch at about 2:30 p.m.

“He had done his checks,” Gooler said, adding that when the match was struck to light the torch, an explosion occurred.

… Gooler said the operator was unable to detect the gases by smell and did not use a detection device.

Garvin sustained non-life threatening, but fairly substantial injuries, including two broken wrists and some burns to the face and hands.

... The reservoir sustained significant damage, including moving the concrete roof 16 inches, and some vertical cracks to the walls.

… Alberta Environment and Occupational Health and Safety are working with the county to ensure standards are met and continue investigation into the mishap. ... more.


Water Usage Advisory Issued For Rosebud, Alberta

“Boiling water will not take this out because it's not a bacterial, it’s a chemical reaction.”

By Strathmore Standard, September 21, 2006

Residents and businesses of Rosebud were alerted to a water usage advisory on Sept. 14, issued by the Calgary Health Region.

The Calgary Health Region has been working with Alberta Environment and Wheatland County to monitor levels of chlorine disinfectant byproducts in the hamlet’s municipal water supply.

Reeve Ben Armstrong said on Sept. 15 that the county was notified of the water advisory at approximately 1 p.m. on Sept. 14.

Enhanced monitoring has been occurring since the construction of the new reservoir in Rosebud.

This monitoring indicates that the hamlet's water treatment plan is currently unable to maintain low levels of a disinfectant byproduct called bromodichloromethane below new guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality that came into effect Jan. 1.

Low levels of disinfectant byproducts are commonly formed during the regular treatment process for drinking water and are a result of chlorine reacting with organic matter in the source water.

Exposure to disinfectant byproducts over many years is suspected to increase one’s risk of developing certain types of cancer and exposure to bromodichloromethane levels above the guideline value has been linked to a possible increase in the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women.

The accepted level is 16 parts per billion and testing done in Rosebud showed 18 and 20 parts per billion….

Armstrong, Deputy Reeve Shirley Reinhardt, area councillor Glenn Koester and County Manager Jennifer Deak along with county staff members Ron Hillier, Gerry Van Oostwaard, Russell Drummond and John Garvin went to Rosebud to inform the residents of the advisory.

They were accompanied by Brock Rush and Larry West of Alberta Environment and Jason Feltham, Environmental Health Advisor, Calgary Health Region.

... “We’re supplying water to them right now because they’re not suppose to drink or prepare food with this water,” Armstrong said.

Wheatland County is installing a NSF certified device for reducing trihalomethanes, as indicated by Calgary Health Region. It is the Brita model FF-100 (the market name is Brita On Tap Faucet Filter).

“The Health Region wants ones that have been certified, so they?re getting a supply for us and we?re hoping to have them installed by tonight (Sept. 15) on every household.”

Deak said Sept. 18, that according to the public works department, that as of 7 p.m. Friday, all but three houses, where people were not at home, had the filters installed. She added staff worked with Alberta Environment at the plant all day Friday. The incident is still being investigated.

Armstrong made it clear that this is not a boil water advisory.

“Boiling water will not take this out because it's not a bacterial, it’s a chemical reaction.”

The county will continue to supply water until the filters are in place or the right mix of chemicals work. ... more.


Speaking Of Trihalomethanes ...

Is it responsible to advise an unsuspecting couple to shock chlorinate their methane contaminated water? 

The Campbells - Ponoka, Alberta

... we were told by Alberta Environment to shock chlorinate our well

... Then we found in information published by Health Canada, adding chlorine to methane gas creates trihalomethanes and chloroform which are known to be toxic.

We find that rural people are very interested in the subject of water contamination because they depend on groundwater, but if you are on town water, you may not know that your water could be affected also.

Presently town water is treated with ammonia and chlorine.  They call it chloramination.  So you have nothing to worry about.  Sorry that was meant to be funny but really it's not.  

The reason I bring this to your attention is because we were told by Alberta Environment to shock chlorinate our well (adding chlorine to kill bacteria) and we did - three times in two years!!

Then we found in information published by Health Canada, adding chlorine to methane gas creates trihalomethanes and chloroform which are known to be toxic. ... more from Community Voice: The Campbells.



Migrating gases send water spewing out of the water well. 



This is dangerous and life-threatening.  If you witness such an atrocity, get the hell out of there and call 911.






A matter of time ... three men seriously injured and hospitalized when the water well explodes and burns. 




Like Taking Water From A Baby

Energy Company Cuts Off Families' Access to Safe Drinking Water after Contamination 

By Iris Marie Bloom, March 1, 2012, Protecting Our Waters & EcoWatch

Mr. Fair, of Connoquenessing PA, is faced with using this well water after Rex Energy removed his water tank. Another family has already left, unable to care for their newborn without adequate clean water. Photo: Diane Sipe“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” John “Denny” Fair said yesterday as he watched a water company worker pour out hundreds of gallons of clean fresh water onto the cold ground and remove the water tank under orders from Rex Energy.

“Everybody had good water a year ago,” Fair said, referring to his own water and that of neighboring families who reported that their water changed color after Rex began drilling and fracking in Conoquenessing Township, Butler County, Pa.
Rex has admitted that two of their Conoquenessing gas wells had casing failures in late 2010, shortly before Conoquenessing families, in an area called the Woodlands, reported that their water changed abruptly in January 2011.
Marcellus Outreach Butler is collecting water for at least 11 families and will confront Rex Energy on March 1 at its office in the town of Butler at 4 p.m., demanding that Rex reinstate clean water supplies for all the families. That address is 407A West Jefferson Street, Butler, Pa. 16001. Participants will first gather at 3:30 p.m. at the Butler Farmer’s Market in Butler, Pa. between Race St. and Shore St.
Denny Fair, unemployed, receives aid from neighbors for electricity and meals from a food bank, according to the Pittsburgh Times-Tribune’s Timothy Puko. The water from Fair’s well, pictured here, ran orange-brown. “Personally, I wouldn’t drink it,” commented Diane Sipe of Marcellus Outreach Butler, who was on the scene yesterday. Fair does odd jobs and is unable to afford either replacement water or a water filtration system, he said.
Most vulnerable families hit hardest
Several families fought hard to keep their water tanks, called “water buffaloes,” but families without means have no alternative to using water which appears to be contaminated, making gas drilling impacts most severe for the most vulnerable families. Two people with disabilities live at the property where Rex Energy ordered the water company to remove its water buffalo one day early, according to Marcellus Outreach Butler organizer Diane Sipe. Sipe said that one Connoquenessing family which depended on a water buffalo provided by Rex Energy until this week is now staying with relatives, unable to care for their newborn with a limited water supply.
In addition to residents’ complaints about contaminated well water, Rex Energy drilling, fracking, gas processing and waste handling operations have fouled the air and surface waters, according to multiple sources. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Officer Nestor said last week that the Commission is now investigating a dozen drilling mud spills, which impacted a dozen different creeks in the Connoquenessing watershed just since December, 2011. Workers have reported rashes and boils on their skin when working with drilling mud, according to Susquehanna County resident Rebecca Roter; the boils diminish or disappear only during weeks off.
Protecting Our Waters began raising funds last week to help provide clean replacement water for the families, but has only raised $910 so far towards the cost of supplying twelve families with water for drinking, showering, washing dishes and laundry.
For more information, click here.

The Dear John Letter

Alberta Environment's investigation regarding the possible impact of coalbed methane development on your water well at SE-13-027-22 W4M is complete.
Dr. Alec Blyth, an expert isotope geochemist/hydrogeologist from the Alberta Research Council, was retained to conduct an independent review the data and Alberta Environment's process for handling well water complaints. A copy of their review is attached.
The Alberta Research Council used various lines of evidence to determine whether your well has been impacted.
The report concludes that the methane gas in your water well is biogenic, indicating it was formed at a shallow depth.
The gas most likely originates from the shallow coal seams where most Rosebud area water wells are drilled.
The report concludes that coalbed methane and other energy development projects have not impacted your water well.

Based on these findings, Alberta Environment is closing this investigation.
To be continued ...



I've Got The Biogenic, You've Got The Thermogenic, Let's Make Lots Of Money

By National Energy Board, ISSN 1917-506X , November 2009.

However, as a technology driven play, the rate of development of shale gas may become limited by the availability of required resources, such as fresh water….

… As mud turns into shale during shallow burial, generally just a few hundred metres deep, in the “nursery”, bacteria feed on the available organic matter (up to 10 per cent of the rock volume but generally less than five per cent) and release biogenic methane as a byproduct (Figure 3). Natural gas is also generated during deep burial while the shale is in the “kitchen”, generally several kilometres deep, where heat and pressure crack the organic matter, including any oil already produced by the same heat and pressure, into smaller hydrocarbons, creating thermogenic methane (Figure 3).

Some of the oil and gas manages to escape and migrate into the more porous rock of conventional reservoirs. In fact, the vast bulk of the world’s conventional reserves of oil and gas were generated in and escaped from organic-rich shales. But some oil and gas does not escape, as it is either trapped in the micropore spaces or attached to the organic matter within the shale.

For example, the natural gas produced from the Second White Specks Shale of Alberta and Saskatchewan comes from shallow burial (it is shallow enough that gas is still being generated by bacteria), while the natural gas from the Devonian Horn River Basin and Triassic Montney shales was generated during deep burial. The Utica Shale of Quebec has both shallow and deep sections and there is potential for both biogenic and thermogenic natural gas, respectively.

The origins of natural gas become important when evaluating shale-gas prospects.

For example, thermogenic systems often produce natural gas liquids with the methane, which can add value to production, whereas biogenic systems generate methane only.

Thermogenic systems can also lead to the generation of carbon dioxide as an impurity in the natural gas, which costs money to remove and can increase greenhouse-gas emissions. Thermogenic plays tend to flow at high rates, but are normally exploited through the extensive use of horizontal drilling and are therefore more expensive to develop than biogenic plays, which flow at lower rates and are exploited through shallow, closely spaced vertical wells instead.

... However, shale gas, both biogenic and thermogenic, remains where it was first generated and can be found in three forms: 1) free gas in the pore spaces and fractures; 2) adsorbed gas, where the gas is electrically stuck to the organic matter and clay; and 3) a small amount of dissolved gas that is dissolved in the organic matter.

… Individual gas shales appear to have hundreds to thousands of billion cubic metres (tens to hundreds of Tcf) of gas in place spread over hundreds to thousands of square kilometres.

The difficulty lies in extracting even a small fraction of that gas.

The pore spaces in shale, through which the natural gas must move if the gas is to flow into any well, are 1000 times smaller than pores in conventional sandstone reservoirs. The gaps that connect pores (the pore throats) are smaller still, only 20 times larger than a single methane molecule. Therefore, shale has very low permeability.

However, fractures, which act like conduits for the movements for natural gas, may naturally exist in the shale and increase its permeability.

Natural gas will not readily flow to any vertical well drilled through it because of the low permeability of shales.

… However, some shales can only be drilled with vertical wells because of the risk of the borehole collapsing (e.g. the Cretaceous Second White Speckled Shale of Alberta and Saskatchewan). The trade-off between drilling horizontal versus vertical is increased access to the reservoir, but at a far higher cost.

... In conventional reservoirs, as much as 95 per cent of the natural gas can be recovered. For shales, recoveries are expected to be around 20 per cent because of low permeabilities despite high-density horizontal drilling and extensive hydraulic fracturing.

Drilling and hydraulically fracturing wells can be water-intensive procedures; however, there is very limited Canadian experience from which to estimate potential environmental impacts.

... Frac water often contains chemical additives to help carry the proppant and may become enriched in salts after being injected into shale formations. Therefore, frac water that is recovered during natural gas production must be either treated or disposed of in a safe manner.

… Flow-back water is infrequently reused in other fracs because of the potential for corrosion or scaling, where the dissolved salts may precipitate out of the water and clog parts of the well or the formation. 

... Shale gas wells can be very expensive because of the cost of horizontal drilling (a function of technology needed to drill horizontal and the extra time required to drill) and technology-heavy hydraulic fracturing techniques that may take several days to fracture a single well.

A horizontal well in the Montney Formation will typically cost approximately 5 to 8 million dollars. In the Horn River Basin, a horizontal well costs up to 10 million dollars. Shale are expected to cost 5 to 9 million dollars.

Vertical wells targeting biogenic shale gas, like in the Colorado Shale, are far less expensive: the resource is shallow and the wells cost less than $350,000 each.

... How much of that gas can be recovered still needs to be confirmed. Initial estimates are about 20 per cent.  

... The Montney is so thick (well over 300 metres in some places) that some operators are planning to pursue stacked horizontal wells, where horizontal legs are drilled at two elevations in the same well, penetrating and fraccing both the Upper and Lower Montney.

... Horn River Basin wells are very prolific…remembering that production declines in shale-gas are steep and within just a few months, production should be significantly less.

… It should be noted that the Horn River Basin shale gas play extends into both the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories, although its northward extent beyond provincial/territorial borders is poorly defined. 

... The Colorado Group consists of various shaley horizons deposited throughout southern Alberta and Saskatchewan (Figure 1) during globally high sea levels of the middle Cretaceous, including the Medicine Hat and Milk River shaley sandstones, which have been producing natural gas for over 100 years, and the Second White Speckled Shale, which has been producing natural gas for decades.

In the Wildmere area of Alberta, the Colorado Shale is approximately 200 metres thick, from which natural gas has potential to produce from five intervals.

… Furthermore, the gas produced in the Colorado has biogenic rather than thermogenic origins. 

... The Upper Ordovician Utica Shale is located between Montreal and Quebec City (Figure 13) and was deposited in deep waters at the foot of the Trenton carbonate platform.

… Biogenic gas can be found in the Utica in shallow areas, while thermogenic methane can be found in medium-deep and structured shales (Figures 13 and 14).

The reservoir has an advantage over others in that it is folded and faulted, which increases the potential for the presence of natural fractures (Figure 4).

Only a handful of wells have been drilled in the Utica, most of them vertical.

After fraccing, each vertical well is reported to have produced approximately 28 000 m3/d (1 MMcf/d) of natural gas. Initial results from hydraulic fracturing and flow tests from three horizontal wells have yielded stable flow rates of 2 800 to 22 700 m3/d (0.1 to 0.8 MMcf/d) from medium-deep shales, less than expected but likely influenced by the lack of equipment to extract frac-water that flowed back during production.

... Finally, there are some environmental concerns with development of shale gas in Canada. Little is known about what the ultimate impact on freshwater resources will be. ... more.


Jessica Ernst's Water Problems

The government's report also ignored evidence provided by one of its own analysts, a professor of geochemistry at the University of Alberta. When Karlis Muehlenbachs analyzed the gas in Ernst's well for Alberta Environment and Water, he found ethane, a gas often found with methane, with a chemical signature indicating that it had come from deep underground, below the depth of the well. Muehlenbachs told ProPublica that the ethane's signature meant that it could not have been there naturally. He said he is convinced that it resulted from drilling.

By Nicholas Kusnetz, December 28, 2011, ProPublica
... Over the last five years, there have been several prominent cases in which Alberta residents have said gas drilling contaminated their water.
There are no hard numbers. The government does not track such complaints. But in some instances, residents' frustration has been exacerbated by their sense that regulators have not properly investigated their claims.
In 2005, Jessica Ernst noticed strange things happening to her water. The toilet fizzed. The faucets whistled. Black particles clogged her filter. Then she began getting rashes.
Ernst, a longtime environmental consultant for oil and gas companies, wondered whether the changes could be connected to drilling nearby. Encana had been drilling shallow coalbed methane wells near her home outside of Rosebud, about 50 miles northeast of Calgary.
She asked Alberta Environment and Water, the agency that oversees groundwater, to test her well. When the well was drilled in 1986, tests showed it had no methane. The new tests, however, showed high levels of the gas, as well as a hydrocarbon called F2 and two other chemicals.
But in 2007, a government research agency concluded it was unlikely that drilling had affected her water. The final report said the chemicals found were not typically used in coalbed methane drilling, and that one had probably come from a plastic tube used to test the water.
Ernst wasn't satisfied with the province's response, however. The government's report concluded that the methane in her well might be occurring naturally because tests showed similar levels of gas in nearby wells. But the tests were conducted after Ernst noticed the changes in her water -- she saw the results as an indication that the contamination might be more widespread.
The government's report also ignored evidence provided by one of its own analysts, a professor of geochemistry at the University of Alberta. When Karlis Muehlenbachs analyzed the gas in Ernst's well for Alberta Environment and Water, he found ethane, a gas often found with methane, with a chemical signature indicating that it had come from deep underground, below the depth of the well. Muehlenbachs told ProPublica that the ethane's signature meant that it could not have been there naturally. He said he is convinced that it resulted from drilling.
As Ernst searched for answers to what happened to her water, she unearthed evidence of other problems related to drilling. She found an Alberta Environment and Water report that listed cases in which the fracking of shallow wells resulted in gas or fluid leaking into nearby gas wells or spraying into the air. She also found government gas well records that said Encana had fracked into the aquifer that supplies her water well.
'The community was used as a test tube,'she said. 'I was used as a test tube.'
Earlier this year, Ernst sued Encana, Alberta Environment and Water and the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board, which regulates drilling, alleging that Encana's drilling was negligent and that the government agencies had covered up the company's contamination and failed to enforce regulations.
Ernst, who is asking for about $33 million Canadian in damages and return of wrongful profits, has vowed she will not accept a settlement that includes a confidentiality agreement, as others have done.
'Somebody has to do this,'she said.
Alan Boras, a spokesman for Encana, said the company would not comment on the case.
The Energy Resources Conservation Board denied a request for an interview. In written responses to questions, spokesman Bob Curran said he could not comment on the specifics of Ernst's case, but the agency is confident it has conducted itself appropriately.
Carrie Sancartier, a spokeswoman for Alberta Environment and Water, would not comment on Ernst's allegations because of the lawsuit but said there have been no confirmed cases of gas drilling contaminating water wells in the province.

Muehlenbachs, whose work has been used in several government investigations, said that is 'simply false.' He said he's analyzed thousands of cases of gas leaking up well bores and knows of at least a dozen cases of water contamination ... more.


The Dear John Letter: Continued

... Given the presence of gas in your well, Alberta Environment recommends that you take measures to properly vent your water well and distribution system.
There are no known or demonstrated adverse human health effects associated with drinking or bathing with well water that contains methane.
Methane gas that accumulates in a confined space or enclosed area has the potential to create oxygen-deficient and flammable/explosive environments.
Please refer to the attached materials on how to mitigate situations where gas is present in groundwater.
Alberta Environment recommends you consult with a qualified water well contractor to deal with the aesthetic and gas related issues pertaining to your well.
Alberta Environment will continue to supply water to your residence until April 18, 2008 to give you an opportunity to make any necessary arrangements to secure your water supply.
David McKenna
Business Unit Leader
Groundwater Policy Branch

'They Are Afraid Their House Could Blow Up': Meet the Families Whose Lives Have Been Ruined by Gas Drilling

We're not asking for a lot and now they're taking it all away. In a million years, I never would have thought that people could do this and get away with it.

By Nina Berman, April 11, 2011, AlterNet
... The family property had become a methane field.
The cause: two Chesapeake gas wells 3,000 feet away that she never saw and doesn't profit from had somehow been sending methane onto her property and into her water, and onto her neighbors' properties on Paradise Road in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania.
Testing by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) traced the methane to Chesapeake wells but the company has denied responsibility.
The Spencers' house, once valued at $150,000, is now worth $29,000.
They have a methane monitor in their basement, a methane water filtration system in a backyard shed. They leave the door open when they take showers because with no bathroom windows they are afraid the house could blow up. Their neighbors were forced to evacuate once already because of high methane levels.
In the middle of their yard, a shaft resembling a shrunken flagpole vents gas from their wellhead. Next to the doorway, a huge "water buffalo" storage container, a signature imprint of the collateral damage brought on by gas drilling, sits like a bloated child's pool, filled with water, not fit for drinking.
... Quiet roads and designated bicycle routes are now major thoroughfares for gas industry trucks. A blue haze can be seen between trees. Trucks routinely carry weight that exceeds limits leaving small rural roads busted and dangerous.
Roads are sprayed with drilling waste as a cheap ice suppressant in the winter and dust control in the summer. The waste eventually makes its way back into streams. Accidents, overturned vehicles and speeding violations are everyday occurrences.
At night the landscape is transformed as bright lights from drilling rigs appear like mini skyscrapers. Red lights from a long line of trucks, their engines running, pinpoint water intake centers, the lifeblood of the fracking industry.
Across from a daycare center and down the road from Wyalusing High School, smoke from a fire at TranZ, a bulk material supply operation for the gas industry, spews noxious odors into the morning sky.
... Not far from Paradise Road, methane bubbles percolate from the riverbed, drifting down the Susquehanna River. Residents in the community known as Sugar Run set up an entrapment tarp last fall when the bubbles were discovered, clicked a lighter and then watched flames shoot up the riverbank.
Up the road, in the path of the bubbles, Carl Stiles' home sits abandoned, inches of snow left untouched on the front steps. He left with his fiancé in mid-November after their blood tests showed high levels of barium and their home had radon levels three times the limit. They had been experiencing a myriad of health problems for months.
"I had tremors on my right side, constant headaches, numbness. We both had heart attack symptoms, " said Stiles, 45. Water tests in his well showed high levels of methane. A hole erupted in their front yard and spewed out a mysterious froth.
Chesapeake gave the couple bottled drinking water but denied responsibility.
Stiles said visits to local doctors were frustrating. He believes they discounted the possibility of chemical poisoning and he suggested there was a conflict of interest because Chesapeake gives so much money to area medical centers.
Finally, a toxicologist in Philadelphia told them to stop drinking their water and leave their home. They haven't been back since.
"Between the drill site and our house, there are so many people in Sugar Run who have water buffaloes, and they have a family up a mile away and he has two little kids and the same symptoms as me. Pennsylvania is going to be a wasteland. It's going to be so contaminated no one is going to live there," said Stiles who now lives in an apartment in Cambria County, where drilling is just getting started.
He had to quit his job when he left and was just diagnosed with colon cancer.
He wonders if the water caused it. As for his $75,000 house in Bradford County, "I couldn't give it away," he said.

All over the region, residents are trying to figure out how to get out ... more.



Sadly, on January 26, 2012, at the age of 46, Carl Stiles passed away. 




I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.

 Maya Angelou 



ARB Reduces Contaminated Property’’s Taxation Value To Zero

The property owners gave evidence of very high levels of methane on the property. A methane gas alarm inside the house was frequently going off, and the fire department had been called several times because of the alarms.

... An insurance broker the property owner consulted could not obtain insurance on the house and property because of the methane.

... In refusing the listing, the broker said that no one would be interested in buying the property because they would not be able to either insure or mortgage it because of the methane levels.

By John M. Buhlman, WeirFoulds LLP Toronto, Ontario, Spring 2012 

Recently the Assessment Review Board (ARB) reduced a contaminated property’’s value for taxation to zero. The ARB is the tribunal that determines disputes on the assessed value of property. Municipal taxes are based on a property’’s assessed value.

The property in question, a residential house, was built on a source of methane gas. The issue was whether the property had any value because of the methane on the property.

The property owners gave evidence of very high levels of methane on the property. A methane gas alarm inside the house was frequently going off, and the fire department had been called several times because of the alarms.

Consulting engineers found that the methane control system installed at the time the house was built was not up to current standards and testified that the source of methane needed to be removed. They estimated that the cost of repairs would exceed the value of the house.

An insurance broker the property owner consulted could not obtain insurance on the house and property because of the methane. Unable to bear the costs of bringing the methane control system up to standard, the owners consulted a broker about selling the property, only to find that their real estate broker would not list the house for sale. In refusing the listing, the broker said that no one would be interested in buying the property because they would not be able to either insure or mortgage it because of the methane levels.

The ARB found this to be an exceptional case. The methane problem, it ruled, is more than a mere nuisance, posing a real hazard. Such hazard had a devastating effect on the current value of the house making it unsellable. Considering how the cost of repairs exceeded the value of the property, the current value for taxation purposes was set to zero. 

This case shows how seriously environmental contamination can affect the value of a property. In similar situations, contaminated property owners should consider seeking reductions in taxation assessments for those properties. ... more.


Counter-Terrorism Unit Set Up in Alberta to Protect Energy Industry

"Those are the kinds of incidents, those are the type of threats, that we are facing right here and now."

The Canadian Press, Jun 6, 2012

The federal government has set up a counter-terrorism unit in Alberta and one of its main jobs will be to help protect the energy industry from attacks by extremists.

The integrated national security enforcement team will be led by the RCMP and include officers from CSIS, the Edmonton and Calgary police forces and federal border patrol.

Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said the key to effectively guarding the labyrinth of oil and natural gas wells, pipelines and refineries in Alberta will be to gather intelligence to prevent attacks before they happen.

"When we look at the booming economy of the province of Alberta over the years, one would be led to believe that there is an increased threat to the infrastructure," Michaud said Wednesday.

"We are basically looking at any individuals or groups that pose a threat to critical infrastructure, to our economy, to our safety that is based on either religious, political or ideological goals."

There are about 400,000 kilometres of provincially regulated energy pipelines criss-crossing Alberta. That does not include federally regulated or smaller distribution pipelines.

... Michaud said the terrorist threat in Canada could come more from people inside the country than outside the border. He pointed to the bombings of Encana natural gas wells and pipelines in the Tomslake area of northeastern B.C. in 2008 and 2009 as an example of "domestic terrorism."

No one was injured in the six separate explosions, but the bombings showed how vulnerable energy infrastructure can be.

"We have seen incidents as recently as a couple of years ago in northern B.C. and Dawson Creek where explosions on pipelines basically created some chaos," he said.

"Those are the kinds of incidents, those are the type of threats, that we are facing right here and now." ... more.




More Headlines ... 

What about the public?


Phew ...



Group Calls for Moratorium on Fracking

'There’s going to be a worse scenario. They’ll blow out a sour gas well'

By Victoria Paterson, Jan 31, 2012, Mountain View Gazette

The Alberta Surface Rights Group is calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracking after an incident that took place near Innisfail in mid-January.

“Let’s put a stop to it and do the research,” said Don Bester, the president of the group and the author of a letter that he said was sent to every MLA in the province calling for a moratorium.

The well blowout occurred on Jan. 13 near Glennifer Lake, about 25 kilometres west of Innisfail and half a kilometre southwest of where the Red Deer River flows into the lake.

The blowout was caused after a hydraulic multi-stage frac being operated by Midway Energy Ltd. impacted a well operated by Wildstream Exploration Ltd., said the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB). The situation caused a release of fracturing fluids, including crude oil, frac oil, water and sand.

ERCB communications officer Cara Tobin said the site was mostly cleaned up by Jan. 18 when she was contacted and there was minimal environmental impact.

Bester said it was his group the landowner contacted to report the incident and questioned what could have happened if it hadn’t been daylight.

“That thing could have blown oil all night,” he said.

The group is concerned about hydraulic fracturing because of fears it could impact groundwater aquifers or result in the release of high hydrogen sulfide, also known as sour gas.

“There’s going to be a worse scenario. They’ll blow out a sour gas well,” he said.

Bester, who was a reservoir engineer for 25 years, said hydraulic fracking is a concern because of the pressure.

“It’s too much pressure being used in those horizontal wells,” he said. The potential for hydraulic frac wells to interact with other wells, he added, “is high.”

While Bester sent the letter to every MLA in the province, he said he doesn’t expect a response or a positive response to the group’s call for a moratorium.

“We don’t expect an answer back,” he said. “You’ll never see a moratorium in the province of Alberta.”

Bester said the government officials have been “warned it’s going to be on their shoulders” if a major incident happens.

He suggested that Alberta follow in the footsteps of Quebec, where a two-year moratorium was called to allow for study, or other countries where moratoriums have been called.

The letter was addressed to the energy minister, the health minister, the human services minister and the chairman of the ERCB.

Howard May, a spokesperson from the health ministry, said they would let the energy department respond. ... more.


Morton Rejects Call for Moratorium on Fracking

‘Go away, the ERCB has got it under control.’ 

By John Gleeson, Mar 06, 2012, Mountain View Gazette

Energy Minister Ted Morton has rejected a call from the Alberta Surface Rights Group for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

“A moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Alberta is not being considered. The Alberta government … is confident the current regulatory requirements ensure safe hydraulic fracturing operations,” Morton wrote in a letter to ASRG president, Don Bester, on Feb. 16.

Bester’s group called for the moratorium after a well blowout on Jan. 13 about 25 kilometres west of Innisfail near Gleniffer Lake, reportedly caused when a multi-stage frac came into contact with a nearby oil well. The group wants to see the practice suspended provincewide until more is known about its environmental impact and appropriate regulations are put in place.

In his letter, Morton said the Energy Resources Conservation Board “investigates all incidents, such as the incident of inter-wellbore communication near Innisfail, and when necessary, updates the rules for oil and gas development to ensure Alberta’s regulations remain relevant and protective.”

Interviewed last week, Bester described Morton’s response as “a pass-over letter to me saying, ‘Go away, the ERCB has got it under control.’ So the question to me is how are they controlling it if blowouts are happening all the time?”

After reporting the Gleniffer Lake blowout, Bester said, his group learned for the first time about four other blowouts in the province, one of them dating back to 2008. In the case of the Gleniffer Lake incident, the public might not hear more details from the ERCB review for up to four years, he predicted.

“That’s the way to make it go away.”

Also last week, Environment and Water Minister Diana McQueen told the Gazette that her department was conducting a review of hydraulic fracturing that would look at “water usage, disclosure of chemicals, all that sort of thing.”

The review is expected to be completed at the end of the year, McQueen said.

Bester laughed when told of the review.

“That one is a good pre-election spiel. We’ve gotten the same answer every month before an election. It’s next year, but next year never came.”

Concerns about the impact of fracking on groundwater and human and animal health were expressed by many people who attended the recent Alberta Property Rights Task Force open houses, including one in Olds on Jan. 11.

Although the task force’s final report did not directly address the many calls for a moratorium, McQueen said her department’s review would study those issues. Also relevant, she said, the government will review compensation guidelines applied by the Surface Rights Board and Land Compensation Board.

Bester, who attended the Olds open house, said he was “absolutely shocked” when he read the final report, which also did not act on calls to repeal the government’s four contentious land bills.

“I was at the same task force meeting and I don’t know what they heard. It was just a landowner task-force farce – that’s how it should have been labelled,” he said.

Bester noted that his group is not alone in calling for a moratorium on fracking. The Quebec government and at least one U.S. state have taken the step and last month the Council of Canadians announced that 62 per cent of Canadians polled by Environics Research were in favour of a moratorium, pending federal reviews. The National Farmers Union has also called for a moratorium, and in a release last week called fracking “a danger to water, food, farmland.”

Bester said one of his major fears is the “high potential to hit a sour gas well. In this blowout near Innisfail they didn’t even know what was occurring. It’s quite evident that these companies don’t know where the hell they’re drilling to,” he said. ... more.


The Next Alberta

Natural gas might reverse Quebec’s declining influence

By Ted Morton, Special to Financial Post, Oct 24, 2012

A made-in-Quebec natural gas industry would help to build a stronger Quebec. It would mean lower gas prices and huge savings for both households and businesses. This would make Quebec businesses more competitive, which translates into more exports, more jobs, and less out-migration.

Shale gas does not have to be at the expense of the environment.

... With respect to protecting groundwater and safe regulation of hydraulic fracturing, Quebec doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Alberta is able and willing to share its experience and expertise in regulating fracking. Indeed, because of its unique geology, Quebec has the opportunity to set the standard for the cleanest natural gas production in North America.

... Today, Quebec shale gas resources hold out a similar opportunity for Quebec — an opportunity that does not have to come at the expense of its environment or quality of life. Indeed, done properly, shale gas development could enhance both. ... more.


Can Canadians Afford "The Next Alberta?" 

Federal Clean-up Won’t Get It All, Need Another $40 Billion To Remove Contamination ... And The Fracking Blitz Is Just Getting Started

Alberta accounts for 41 per cent of the country’s polluters, with 3,311 reporting facilities in 2010. Eighty per cent of those Alberta facilities are oil and gas producers.

Source - Fast Forward WeeklyBy Suzy Thompson, October 11, 2012, Fast Forward Weekly

On October 3, Environment Minister Peter Kent announced the federal government was launching the second phase of its 15-year plan to clean up nearly 22,000 contaminated sites across the country.

Kent admitted at a press conference in Ottawa that, “past practices have had harmful effects on the environment,” and that the government is committed to restoring contaminated areas for the safety of the environment and public.

With that announcement, the government pledged $1 billion over the next three years to clean up 1,100 high-priority sites and assess another 1,650.

… Environment Canada says this includes “toxic waste sites, abandoned mines, contaminated military installations, leaking fuel storage depots.”

The federal government’s definition of a contaminated site is “one at which substances occur at concentrations above background (normally occurring) levels and pose or are likely to pose an immediate or long-term hazard to human health or the environment.”

... The National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) gathers information from every facility releasing contaminants, such as paper mills, waste treatment plants, hospitals, military bases and oil and gas facilities. 

According to the NPRI’s data, Alberta accounts for 41 per cent of the country’s polluters, with 3,311 reporting facilities in 2010. Eighty per cent of those Alberta facilities are oil and gas producers. However, none are on federal land, and therefore not encompassed by the FCSAP program.

… In 2007, a report commissioned by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment found the total remediation costs of soil and water contaminated by petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs) alone to be almost $41 billion.

The report found that due to the scale and cost of contamination, “the estimated magnitude of remediation work associated with PHC contaminated sites is projected to exceed the current annual capacity of the remediation industry by more than 57 times…. The largest PHC contaminated site liabilities are in the provinces with large upstream oil and gas industries; those provinces also have relatively small remediation industries.”

It concludes that since the cost of restoring polluted land would often be higher than the value of the land itself, “there is no net monetizable benefit to the economy as a whole associated with the remediation of a contaminated site.”

The 2010 soil quality guidelines report, also commissioned by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, found that despite knowing many PHCs and related chemicals cause cancer, and that there are hundreds of different types of these compounds, little toxicological information exists for most of them. Because of this dearth of knowledge, the environmental and health risks of only nine types of PAHs were examined for the soil quality review.

... “The system lacks standard closure reporting as well as clear and measurable expectations for what departments with custodial responsibilities for contaminated sites are to accomplish,” writes the auditor general’s commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, Scott Vaughan. “There is no consolidated Government of Canada report showing progress in terms of total sites remediated, which sites remain contaminated, what it will cost to remediate them, and what the potential consequences are of not taking action”

... In researching this story, Fast Forward Weekly was passed from one federal department to another as government representatives claimed someone else was responsible for the program. ... more.



‘Fact or fiction’ – What’s The Fracking Truth?

“In our opinion as landowners, what we’re seeing is more fracs, more fiction”

David Morris, a community representative from Quicksilver said he was thankful to be invited to an open dialogue and expressed his concern that the public perception of fracking is skewed. Photo - Mark Crown/Camrose CanadianBy Mark Crown, November 8, 2012, The Camrose Canadian

... David Morris, a community representative from Quicksilver said he was thankful to be invited to an open dialogue and expressed his concern that the public perception of fracking is skewed.

"Often in our world fear trumps facts time and time again," Morris said, adding "we are entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts."

Morris argued that the public often applies different standards to the oil and gas industry than it does to other industries and used a tube of toothpaste as a prop to make his point.

"These are things that have a lot of similar additives and I wonder if you opened your cabinet under your sink and do all of the MSDS studies and ask 'what kind of things are we having?" he said.

... Morris concluded by asking attendees to consider that they may be in a mental rut, which he suggested they attempt to move out of.

Shawn and Ronalie Campbell shared a vastly different experience with attendees.  

The couple has had oil and gas operations on their ranch a long time and started to ask questions when they noticed unusual occurrences on their land. Multiple tests showed unsafe sulphur levels and thermogenic gases…in the Campbell’s water and Ronalie said the issues of fracking go far beyond peoples unfounded fears.

“Industry claims that hydraulic fracturing is safe and regulated by the government. Well, I think there is definitely some questions about the safety, otherwise people wouldn’t be asking for moratoriums on it,” she said. “This isn’t isn’t just people with fears saying it’s not safe, there have been many peer reviewed studies that have been done.”

Ronalie continued by stating that further to her point, she believes it is the oil and gas industry who is promoting fictitious arguments.  

“In our opinion as landowners, what we’re seeing is more fracs, more fiction,” she said. “We’ve seen more presentations, more ad’s saying that this is all environmentally friendly and will not cause any harm to people, but when we look at the trees, lakes and rivers what would they say if they could talk?” ... more.






Meet The Frack Family

... the Frack Family would like to show you the amount of chemicals for which no Chemical Abstract Service numbers are disclosed on the ingredients list

By SkyTruth, June 8, 2012

If you've read our "What's In My Frack Fluid" article, posted by David last week, you were probably  disturbed to find out how much of the ingredients used in a typical hydraulic fracturing operation are unknown. We thought it might be a good idea to illustrate what 133 tons of chemicals (including 65 tons of unknown chemicals) looks like. So Paul and I got to work in Google Sketchup creating the Frack Family. The Fracks are an imaginary family who live near the very real Marcellus Shale natural-gas drilling and  fracking site in Beaver County, Pennsylvania featured in David's blog post. They agreed to let Chesapeake Energy store all the chemicals that were used at this frack site right on their lawn... such a sweet family.

We uploaded the Frack Family into Google Earth Pro and took some screenshots to help you visualize how much chemicals are being used, and more disturbingly, how much of those chemicals are what David calls "mystery" chemicals.



We'll start off with an introduction to the Fracks and their dog, Rocky. Above, you can see them standing by a glowing green 42-gallon barrel that represents the 380 pounds of Ammonium Persulfate used in the fracking solution and a few of the 32 lavender colored barrels that represent nearly 6 tons of Potassium Hydroxide.

As we back up, shown below, you'll notice 235 blue barrels to the right of the Fracks. These barrels represent the 41 tons of Hydrogen Chloride used to make hydrochloric acid.



Finally, the Frack Family would like to show you the amount of chemicals for which no Chemical Abstract Service numbers are disclosed on the ingredients list -- which is voluntarily provided by Chesapeake Energy Appalachia LLC via FracFocus.org. These "mystery" chemicals are represented below by 373 bright red barrels and weigh a total of approximately 65 tons. That is about half of all the chemicals used for this one fracking job, which is 1.7% of the total weight of the mixture used (the other 98.3% by weight being water and sand). We cannot be sure exactly what these chemicals are... but it's only less than 1% of the frack job, right?



Joking aside: all of these chemicals had to be trucked onto the drilling site.  That's a lot of truckloads of chemicals, including hundreds of barrels of unknown substances, being hauled (in a hurry) over typically small, light-duty, winding country roads, past homes, businesses, and schools. That's pretty serious. ... more at SkyTruth



Clash Over Local Drilling

'We found it patronising and insulting to sit there listening to a lecture on how to maintain our water wells when they're actually making toxic soup in our communities'

By Sarah Junkin, November 30, 2011, p. 6, Cochrane Times

Tempers flared at an open house held Nov.23 after local residents concerned about the intensity of drilling in the area, felt they weren't being listened to by some oil and gas producers.

... after keynote speaker, Grant Nielsen from Stantec Consulting made a presentation on the importance of maintaining water wells, a group known as POWERS Alberta took exception to the fact there was to be no public question and answer session.

'We found it patronising and insulting to sit there listening to a lecture on how to maintain our water wells when they're actually making toxic soup in our communities,' Pearsall-Pickup said, adding she didn't understand why there wasn't a question and answer session afterwards. 'Why did we have to go in secret to each of these booths?'

 ... she believes local residents should be wary of the fact that the oil company representatives wouldn't allow questions from the floor.

'This is our home, this is our land ... what do they have to hide? It's a typical manoeuvre by oil and gas to get us to shut up.' ... more.

 The Water Well Driller Did It

An Excerpt from the award-winning article Burning Water by Tadzio Richards, March 17, 2007, Maisonneuve

Source - Presentation by Jessica Ernst: The Great Getaway: Secrets of a Frac Cover-Up... In January 2005, the consulting firm concluded that the silt in Kenney’s new water well was related to “inappropriate design.” The high levels of nitrogen found in the water “did not appear to be a result of the stimulation of the 05-14 Gas Well.”

Or in plain language: The nitrogen is a freak occurrence, and the dirty water is the water-well driller’s fault. The report dismissed the possibility that nitrogen used in the shallow gas-well fractures had migrated into the groundwater, along with anything else that might have been in the gas well.

“I was quite upset about this,” said Gerritsen. “I had a meeting with EnCana and I said I’m done, I don’t want you to call me. I said I knew what they did up in the hills.” ... more.


 Take It Back - Encana Says EPA Analysis 'Misguided' 

"... Encana didn’t put them there; nature did”

Pavillion Driller Blasts EPA Contamination Findings

By Ellen M. Gilmer with contributions by Mike Soraghan, December 7, 2012, E & E News

Encana Corp., fighting accusations that its gas wells contaminated drinking water in Pavillion, Wyo., is calling on U.S. EPA to withdraw a draft report that linked hydraulic fracturing in Wyoming to groundwater contamination there.

Encana, the main driller in the Pavillion field, said in a press call yesterday that any contaminants detected in EPA’s monitoring wells were either naturally occurring or were introduced by the agency during “sloppy” well construction or lab testing.

... Encana’s David Stewart, who handles environment, health and safety issues in Wyoming, said EPA’s analysis of deep groundwater was misguided, and “EPA should withdraw the draft report.” He said the agency was assuming natural gas development was the culprit instead of considering naturally occurring contaminants and other sources.

The criticism is similar to that voiced recently by the American Petroleum Institute (EnergyWire, Oct. 19).

... Both federal agencies detected methane, propane and ethane in the deep groundwater. All are components of natural gas that Encana says are naturally occurring. They also both detected phenol and benzoic acid. The company contends that those also occur naturally and leach from polyvinyl chloride plastics used by EPA to construct the monitoring wells.



“The important point is that these are naturally occurring and have existed in these zones for eons. Encana didn’t put them there; nature did,” company spokesman Doug Hock said in an email.


Stewart acknowledged that robust base-line water quality information would have headed off many of the discrepancies over whether compounds are natural or drilling-related. Encana now has a standard practice of examining base-line data for groundwater in all oil and gas plays and new wells, he said. ... more.


Why Is EnCana Not Willing To Test Our Water Beyond The Minimum Standards?

By Bill Barnett, in Red Deer Advocate, Drumheller Valley Times and Strathmore Standard, August 7, 2007

It appears your Web browser is not configured to display PDF files. No worries, just click here to download the PDF file.




EnCana Racks Up The Fines

But the company promises next year will be different.

By Dennis Webb Glenwood Springs Correspondent, Dec. 10, 2004, Aspen Times

One of Garfield County’s leading natural-gas producers also is leading the state this year in violations and fines.

EnCana Oil & Gas was hit with another fine last week in connection with its operations in Garfield County. It has violated state regulations and laws in connection with 17 wells this year and been fined a total of $454,200.

“Seventeen for this one company is quite a few,” said Morris Bell, operations manager for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

But the company promises next year will be different. EnCana spokesman Walt Lowry said this week EnCana’s goal is to be issued no notices of alleged violation by the COGCC in 2005.

“It’s a dangerous business. Things do happen, but it’s our commitment and our goal to ensure that they don’t,” he said.

The COGCC last week found EnCana in violation of drilling a well without a permit, and recompleting seven wells without permits. The COGCC fined EnCana $25,000 for the violation involving the new well; the COGCC staff had recommended a $35,000 fine.

The COGCC did not fine EnCana in connection with the recompletion violations because of a clause that exempts companies from fines when they voluntarily report violations.

Tricia Beaver, a COGCC hearings officer, said recompletion work can involve going back into a well and perforating it, possibly at a different geological formation, in an attempt to reach new pockets of gas.

The bulk of EnCana’s fines this year stem from a record $371,200 penalty handed down in August in connection with natural gas that surfaced earlier in the year in West Divide Creek south of Silt.

The COGCC has fined EnCana more this calendar year than all oil and gas operators combined in any COGCC fiscal year for at least 15 years. According to state records dating back to 1990-91, the most in total fines the COGCC had previously imposed was $238,250 in fiscal year 1995-96.

The COGCC’s fiscal year begins in July, and total fines so far this fiscal year are $453,200, in large part due to EnCana’s West Divide Creek fine and others against the company.

EnCana might have paid more, if not for the COGCC’s rules on self-reporting violations. Beaver said the COGCC debated at length over whether the problem involving the recompleted wells was self-reported.

“It could have been a stretch to say it was self-reported in the strictest sense,” she said. “It was self-reported sort of generically.”

The company said it found some recompleted wells in violation and might have some more, Beaver said. Those others turned out to be the seven for which it was found in violation.

She said this year’s gas seep is a lot worse of a violation than EnCana’s recent permit mistakes.

“But any violation of our rules is not a good thing to have happen,” she said. 

Often a company and COGCC staff will agree to a finding of violation rather than the matter being decided by the oil and gas commission. But Beaver said COGCC chairman Peter Mueller insisted that the allegations against EnCana be heard by the commission.

“I think our commission was very concerned after the seep,” Beaver said.

Bell noted that EnCana’s total violations this year exceed 17, because in some cases it had multiple violations on single wells. ... more. 




What's In A Song? (2008) 




West Divide Creek Resident Says Water Contamination Continues

Lisa Bracken asked the BOCC to support her in calling for renewal of a drilling moratorium

John Colson Post Independent Staff Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado, April 10, 2010, Post Independent 

SILT, Colorado — Chemicals in the water continue to plague residents of the West Divide Creek area south of Silt, claims a woman who has been coping with the issue for years and blames the problem on the gas drilling industry.

Her complaints, contained in an email sent to Garfield County officials recently, were forwarded by the board of county commissioners to the state agency in charge of overseeing the natural gas industry in Colorado.

Lisa Bracken has argued since mid-2008 that chemical compounds have seen seeping from natural gas formations, breached by drilling operations that began in 2004, into West Divide Creek and possibly into ground water in the area.

In 2004, a seep sent hydrocarbons, such as cancer-causing benzene, into the creek from an improperly completed nearby gas well. EnCana Oil & Gas USA was fined more than $300,000 for the violation of state regulations in the incident.

In addition, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission [COGCC] imposed a moratorium on drilling in the area for roughly a year, until government and industry officials agreed it should be lifted.

In a letter to the BOCC dated March 30, Bracken wrote that two gas operators — EnCana Oil and Gas, USA and Bill Barrett Corp. — in February of this year “self reported” the appearance of “hydrocarbons” in two domestic water wells in her neighborhood.

Judy Jordan, the county's oil and gas liaison, said the COGCC has already begun an investigation into the reports from the gas companies.

Jordan also said the initial findings indicate that the hydrocarbons found in the two wells are “thermogenic methane,” which characteristically is found in rock formations deep underground, far deeper than typical domestic water sources.

The two wells, Bracken wrote to the BOCC, are on private property located on either side of her own land, “in near proximity to a linear fault path implicated in the ... 2004 seep events.”

Bracken wrote that a 2008 seep, as well as gas drilling activity that she maintains contributed to the 2008 seep, “remain largely uninvestigated by the COGCC” despite a pledge to probe the issue once the moratorium was lifted.

She expressed disappointment that the county has not pressed harder for more scientific studies of the matter, “despite assurances from [Commissioner John] Martin that the county would act immediately” to get answers about the potential for ground water contamination.

She asked the board to support her in calling for renewal of a drilling moratorium, which she said is necessary in order to conduct a thorough study of the hydrology and geology of the West Divide Creek area.

“For the COGCC to continue to allow drilling under these circumstances is nothing less than egregious negligence which places the health and safety of residents of this area at unnecessary risk,” she declared. ... more.


A Family's Water Well Was Contaminated After Hydraulic Fracturing Near Their Home

Encana uses 2-BE, and creates one mad mother

... the director of the COGCC told a CBS News Bureau Chief in Washington D.C. that I am crazy, and that my exposure to 2-BE may have come from Windex

By Laura Amos, Earthworks

... Contaminated Drinking Water

In May 2001 while fracturing four wells on our neighbors' property (less than 1000' from our house on what's known as the G33 pad), the gas well operator "blew up" our water well. Fracturing created or opened a hydrogeological connection between our water well and the gas well, sending the cap of our water well flying and blowing our water into the air like a geyser at Yellowstone.

Immediately our water turned gray, had a horrible smell, and bubbled like 7-Up.

Water production dropped drastically from 15 gallons per minute to nothing or near nothing.

Tests of our water showed 14 milligrams (mg) per liter of methane. That's almost as much methane that water will hold at our elevation. But the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) claimed that the methane was "transient" in nature. We were assured that methane is safe, that in fact our bodies produce it naturally, and that there are no known health effects.

We were warned, however, to make sure there were no closets or pockets in our home where the gas could build up and explode. They tested the water in our well a couple more times that summer, ending in August 2001.

Health problems

In the spring of 2003 I became very ill. I spent months in doctors' offices and hospitals. I was eventually diagnosed with Primary Hyper Aldosteronism, a very rare condition of a tumor in my adrenal gland. None of my doctors had any idea of how I could have acquired such a rare disease.The tumor and my adrenal gland had to be removed. As a result, I am concerned that my immune system is now compromised, as well as the other endocrine related systems that are linked with the adrenal glands.

For more than two years my husband and I felt more or less abandoned by the COGCC. We resolved nothing. In January 2004 I had had enough and decided to become better informed and make others aware of my predicament. I started my 1st letter-writing campaign. The gas commission came back, tested again, and again found 14 mg of methane per liter in our water. They determined that it was Williams Fork Formation gas, a Notice of Alleged Violation was issued to Encana, but no fine was administered by the COGCC.

An explanation: 2-BE

In August 2004 I came across a memo written to the US Forest Service and BLM Regional offices in Delta County, describing the health hazard posed by a chemical used in fluids that are injected underground to enhance the release of methane.

Dr. Theo Colborn of Paonia, Colorado submitted the memo in response to decisions that were being made in Delta County by the government officials to allow gas exploration and development on the Grand Mesa. Colborn is the President of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Inc (TEDX) and for over 10 years directed the World Wildlife Fund's Wildlife and Contaminants Program. She has been honored worldwide for her focus on the effects of synthetic chemicals on human and wildlife health.

The focus of Colborn's memo was on a chemical called 2-BE, used in fracturing fluids.

I took the following information from Colborn's report:


    2-BE is a highly soluble, colorless liquid with a very faint, ether like odor.



    At the concentration to be used in Delta county 2-BE might not be detectable through odor or taste.



    2-BE has a low volatility, vaporizes slowly when mixed with water and remains well dissolved throughout the water column.


    It mobilizes in soil and can easily leach into groundwater.



    It could remain entrapped underground for years.



    It is readily absorbed by the skin and can easily be inhaled as it off-gasses in the home.

Colborn cited the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Profile that listed the following effects of 2-BE:


    kidney damage,



    kidney failure,                                                                                                                                        


    toxicity to the spleen, the bones in the spinal column and bone marrow,



    liver cancer,






    female fertility reduction,



    embryo mortality,



    and the biggie that got my attention - elevated numbers of combined malignant and non-malignant tumors of the adrenal gland.

Of course that sent up a huge red flag! I have had no peace of mind ever since.

Remember that from August 2001 until January 2004 no testing was done on our water. Our daughter was only 6 months old when fracturing blew up our water well. I bathed her in that water every day. I also continued breast-feeding her for 18 more months until she was 2 years old - during the time the tumor was developing in my adrenal gland. If there was a chemical in my body causing my tumor, she was exposed to it as well. She was in contact with the chemical through every possible exposure pathway.

Encana uses 2-BE, and creates one mad mother

After reading Colborn's memo, I tried to find out if Encana used 2-BE in fracturing.

Encana's spokesman, Walt Lowrey, assured several of our neighbors, and my husband and me that 2-BE was NOT used. In addition, Lowrey told many reporters in western Colorado, Denver and the Associated Press that 2-BE was not used on the pad, or anywhere in this area.

However, on January 31, 2005, I learned that the industry had not been telling the truth to all of us.

In June 2001, five weeks after the operator and the COGCC knew that there was a connection between the gas well and my water well, they proceeded to fracture wells on the G33 pad again. It was reportedly an experimental fracture, a new idea to fracture into the Wasatch formation, the same formation that our water comes from. They fractured 2000 feet below the surface, and they DID use 2-BE. Encana is now delivering us alternative water for use in our home, but we are concerned that our well water may never be safe again.

I am ONE MAD MOTHER who intends to continue to challenge the system that allows average citizens to be ignored and trampled on, without consideration for their health, their children's health, and life-long investments. I am ONE MAD MOTHER who believes it is the role of government to protect the average citizen.

COGCC fails

I believe that I should have the support and concern of the COGCC, but that is far from the case. Instead, it is obvious that the COGCC is continuing to be more concerned with corporate interests. In fact, the director of the COGCC told a CBS News Bureau Chief in Washington D.C. that I am crazy, and that my exposure to 2-BE may have come from Windex! ... more.


Laura and Lauren Amos. Photo: Split Estate

Click on picture to watch more on Laura Amos and fracking contamination from Democracy Now and Split Estate (2009)

Partial transcript from video clip:

... After years of mounting medical bills, devalued property and diminishing options, Laura agreed to a monetary settlement with EnCana Corporation, the company responsible for her problems. The settlement stipulated she stop telling her story publicly, which is why she was not interviewed for this film.  Many family stories like hers will never be told, because of company settlements that require silence. 



The Promise

EnCana Regulatory and Land Advisor Brenda Linster ... said as a good neighbor, the company would return the water to its pre-drilling condition if need be.

Lehman Twp. One Step Closer To Gas Drilling

By Elizabeth Scrapits, December 29, 2009, citizensvoice.com

... Although regulations only require monitoring residential wells within a 1,000-foot radius of the drilling site, the plan is to test all wells within a 1-mile radius, EnCana Regulatory and Land Advisor Brenda Linster said. She said as a good neighbor, the company would return the water to its pre-drilling condition if need be ... more.

Feds Link Water Contamination To Fracking

By Abrahm Lustgarten and Nicholas Kusnetz, Dec. 8, 2011, ProPublica

... Throughout its investigation in Wyoming, The EPA was hamstrung by a lack of disclosure about exactly what chemicals had been used to frack the wells near Pavillion.

EnCana declined to give federal officials a detailed breakdown of every compound used underground.

... Hock would not say whether EnCana had used 2 BE, one of the first chemicals identified in Pavillion and known to be used in fracking, at its wells in Pavillion. But he was dismissive of its importance in the EPA’s findings. ... more. 


2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE). Source: "What Chemicals Are Used" Fracfocus.ca - This website currently only displays some well information for British Columbia, Canada. As well, it does not disclose all chemicals used, as many are proprietary.




"We're testing a theory."

How Many Energy Company Reps Does It Take To Stare Down A Contaminated Water Well?  Company Investigates Itself, Blames Structure of Homeowner's Water Well for Contamination



What do we really know about the Garden Slug?

By Welcome Wildlife.com

Slugs have a long, muscular, slimy body. They lack an obvious shell, but, otherwise, there's basically no difference between slugs and snails. The most common garden slugs are black or dark-brown and 1/2 to 2 inches long. In temperate climates, some slugs hibernate underground in winter. The adults of other species die in winter. Slugs are more prone to desiccation than snails with shells because they lack that protective covering.

They have a limited learning ability, but can form long-term memories.

... The snail's brain is very simple compared to other animals. Still, they're capable of associative learning and can form long-term memories. In fact, according to surprised neuroscientists studying long-term memory, the only thing limiting snails' learning ability is the limited number of neurons in their brain. Otherwise, their cellular and molecular processes are almost exactly like that of humans.

They are strong.

... Snails are surprisingly strong for their size. An experiment with a Helix aspersa who weighed 1/4-ounce showed he could vertically drag 2-1/2 ounces. Another snail, weighing 1/3-ounce, pulled 17 ounces horizontally -- more than 50 times his own weight.

Hide in groups and don't communicate.

... Snails aren't social. They may be seen hiding in groups, but they don't communicate other than to follow snail trails to find a mate or, for the carnivorous ones, to find prey. Some species have a well-developed homing behavior.

They stimulate their targets.

... with some snail species ... there's a rather shocking turn of events: Each pierces the body of the other with a long, sharp spear, called a "love dart." Ouch!  This, of course, begs the question, "Why?' Apparently, it ... stimulates them ...

Sometimes they miss.

... Most snails don't see all that well, so one-third of love darts miss their target (or fail to penetrate.) Do the snails seem to mind being harpooned? Yes, actually, they do. There's research indicating that snails frequently jostle in an effort to stab, but not be stabbed.


Pa. Woman: Chemicals In My Water In Drilling Area

Another Woodlands resident who complained about dramatic changes in her water over the last year said DEP staff suggested the bad smell was simply from garden slugs in her well, which is 300 feet deep. 

By Kevin Begos, Associated Press, February 24, 2012

EVANS CITY, Pa.—A woman says state environmental officials refused to do follow-up tests after their lab reported her drinking water contained chemicals, but it's unclear where the pollutants came from.
At least 10 households in the rural Woodlands community, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, in western Pennsylvania, have complained that recent gas drilling impacted their water in different ways.
The Department of Environmental Protection first suggested that Janet McIntyre's well water contained low levels of only one chemical, toluene, a paint thinner. But a review of the DEP tests by The Associated Press found in her water four other volatile organic compounds that can be associated with gas drilling.
After this story was first published, drilling firm Rex Energy Corp. provided a list that shows none of those chemicals was used at its nearby well with a procedure known as hydraulic fracturing, which involves blasting chemical-laced water deep into the ground.
That suggests that Rex may be getting blamed for problems that are not its fault, even as another mystery remains: Others in the community have complained of water that became discolored, smelled and had higher levels of minerals and solids after recent drilling.

Further complicating the situation, other companies have older wells in the same area.

... Dr. Bernard Goldstein, professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, said the lack of follow-up tests by the DEP doesn't make sense.

"DEP cannot just simply walk away," Goldstein said.

DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said on Friday that the low chemical concentrations were not a health risk, and he suggested that the contamination may have come from the agency's laboratory or from abandoned vehicles on or near the property. But Sunday didn't answer why the DEP failed to do follow-up tests if it suspected that its own testing process was contaminated.

Sunday said the agency had conducted enough tests to make an informed, rational decision that the compounds did not come from drilling activity.

McIntyre and other residents say the water problems started about a year ago, after Rex, based in State College, drilled two wells. But a map Rex provided also shows gas wells from other companies in the area, and it noted that the people who have complained are uphill from the nearby gas wells.

Rex has been supplying drinking water to many households but has sent letters notifying them it will no longer deliver water after Feb. 29.

... McIntyre's water showed detectable levels of t-Butyl alcohol, acetone, chloromethane, toluene and 1, 3, 5-trimethylbenzene. Some are commonly used in households and other industry, such as toluene.

Goldstein said the multi-chemical mix is what is so unusual, since it suggests either multiple sources of contamination or an industry that uses many different chemicals.

"Where would you get such a strange mixture?" Goldstein asked, adding that if DEP's own laboratory was even a potential source of the chemicals, the agency had the obligation to follow up.

"You've got to pursue the finding," Goldstein said, since if the lab was at fault the variety of chemicals that showed up "makes no sense at all, except a really sloppy lab."

... McIntyre told the AP that she repeatedly asked a DEP field worker for follow-ups after two tests last summer showed the chemicals and elevated levels of some natural underground compounds such as barium.

"He said no," she said, leaving her feeling that she had no one to turn to for an objective public health opinion.

She also said the chemicals didn't show up on pre-drill water tests. ... more.


Local Residents Face Off Against An Oil Company In Bearspaw

Nearby resident Bogdan Motoc, who would be roughly 500 metres from the proposed well site, supports Bancroft but since he doesn’t live within 150 metres he had no standing at the hearing.

By Rachel Maclean, September 7, 2011, Cochrane Eagle 

Multi-well pad in Rocky View County, AlbertaAn 87-year-old landowner east of Cochrane is fighting to keep his area free of oil activity after a local company proposed a new operation on his land.

Calgary-based Bernum Petroleum has a proposed well on a 1.8-hectares (4.5 acres) lease roughly seven kilometres east of Cochrane. 

... “We don’t want it on our land,” said landowner Timothy Bancroft, adding pumpjacks and storage tanks don’t blend well with a rural landscape.

The land has been in his family since 1905, and Bancroft would like to keep it pristine.

Bancroft appealed the plans at an Energy Resource Conservation Board (ERCB) hearing that took place Aug. 30-31, his only line of defence.

Nearby resident Bogdan Motoc, who would be roughly 500 metres from the proposed well site, supports Bancroft but since he doesn’t live within 150 metres he had no standing at the hearing.

Along with other neighbours, Motoc’s recent request for standing was denied.

“This is a development I will see from my kitchen, master bedroom and south porch,” said Motoc.

He said among other things, he is concerned about the property value of his home.

“Who would buy a house, be it on four acres, if it has . . . pumpjacks behind it,” said Motoc.  ... more.


Louis W. Allstadt – From Supporter to Skeptic on New York State Fracking, DEC Not Up To The Job – Oil & Gas Industry Influences Regulators

Allstadt headed Mobil’s oil and natural gas drilling in the western hemisphere ...

... He also supervised Mobil’s side of the company’s 1999 merger with Exxon that created the world’s largest corporation. 

By Peter Mantius, October 1st, 2012, Natural Resources News Service

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Former Mobil Oil Corp. executive Louis W. Allstadt did not start out as an anti-fracking activist. He had to analyze the issue and then switch sides.

Initially, he bought into the natural gas industry’s gaudy promises that high-volume horizontal hydrofracturing could work economic miracles in rural upstate New York. He wrote in a 2009 newspaper opinion article that gas drilling “could provide enormous quantities of clean-burning natural gas with great economic benefits” to the state.

But after digging deeper, Allstadt veered away from the party line.

Now he is convinced the economic prospects are largely hype and that the state’s environmental regulators are disturbingly unprepared to deal with the side effects of such an invasive industrial activity.

“It’s a bad idea for New York State,” Allstadt said in recent interview, echoing detailed letters he has written to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state officials.

The industry has tried to downplay the fact that he has switched sides, challenging his credentials. “Lou was a policy guy in refining,” said Scott Cline, an industry spokesman who holds a Ph.D in petroleum engineering. “He’s talking about things he doesn’t know anything about.”

Actually, Allstadt headed Mobil’s oil and natural gas drilling in the western hemisphere before he retired to this tony lakeside village about a decade ago. He also supervised Mobil’s side of the company’s 1999 merger with Exxon that created the world’s largest corporation.

… Cline questions Allstadt’s authority to weigh in. “Talk to his former company, Exxon,” Cline said. “They’ve invested heavily in (gas driller) XTO and they believe in shale gas … I classify Lou as somebody who lives in Cooperstown who doesn’t want drilling in his backyard.”

But Allstadt says it is not so much his personal property, but rather the state’s waters and taxpayers that are threatened. He points out that the Cooperstown area is not prime fracking territory for reasons of both geology and politics. Although much of the surrounding countryside has been leased by zealous landmen, three test wells recently drilled nearby were all plugged and abandoned after yielding almost no gas.

And when Cuomo indicated in June that he was close to allowing fracking in a few areas near the New York-Pennsylvania border, Cooperstown clearly fell outside his target area. Since then, the governor has extended a moratorium on all high-volume fracking in New York State, pending a new health impact study that will take months.

The state should have ordered the health study years ago, Allstadt argues, and its failure to do so is a symptom of a deeper problem. In his view, regulators at the state Department of Environmental Conservation are so steeped in the industry mindset that they continue to sidestep a host of costly challenges, such as disposing of toxic fracking wastewater and financing repairs on roads and bridges beaten up by fracking trucks.

… As the fracking debate rages on, Allstadt has not been a particularly splashy activist. He has limited his public speaking to a few even-tempered, rather dry, presentations to local community groups. “Lou is a very careful man. He’s low-key and he knows his facts. He doesn’t jump to conclusions,” said Lang Keith, a former Virginia circuit court judge who retired to Cooperstown.

... Allstadt retired to Cooperstown in 2000 with his wife Melinda, who sings in a local a capella group. They had discovered the town in 1970s when he was based in Manhattan. First they bought a fixer-upper on the lake, then they upgraded. Later, when he was stationed in Singapore and Japan, she and the kids spent summer retreats at the lake.

Allstadt had grown up on Long Island and graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, training ground for many a ship captain. He later earned an MBA from Columbia University.

He was in his mid-20s when both Mobil and Exxon made him similar job offers. He chose Mobil and rose through a variety of domestic and international posts. He served as chairman of Mobil’s companies in Japan and as head of the corporation’s worldwide supply, trading and transportation organization. After taking over as head of exploration and production in North America in 1996, he was promoted to head of oil and natural gas drilling in the western hemisphere in February 1998, 21 months before Mobil merged with Exxon.

One blogger for a pro-fracking website funded by the American Petroleum Institute had no trouble dismissing those credentials. He reported that Allstadt owned a four-seat private plane that burned 18.4 gallons of fuel per hour and joshed that he might want to convert it to fly on compressed natural gas. In the same post, the blogger wrote, “I don’t exactly know what Allstadt did for Mobil but he was not there long and I can see why.”

Actually, he spent his entire 31-year career at Mobil. 

... The Marcellus Shale formation, which extends from upstate New York down through Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, is widely viewed as one of the world’s largest stores of natural gas. Most experts agree that high-volume fracking is the best way to tap it.

Allstadt appreciated the potential, but was attuned to the need to regulate it strictly. Over time he concluded that that was not likely, given the DEC’s apparent pro-industry bias.

If he had one wake-up call that turned him into a skeptic, he said, it was drilling setbacks – the minimum distances gas wells must be from homes, public buildings and public sources of drinking water.

He hunted for details in the DEC’s 1,000-plus-page, boiler-plated guide to fracking regulations known as the 2011 Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, or SGEIS. No luck.

“The distance from a person’s home to an invasive industrial activity is of utmost importance,” Allstadt wrote DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens in January. “The public had every reason to expect that this information would be prominent in the 2011 SGEIS. It is not.”

... The 1992 GEIS said it was OK to drill beyond 100 feet from a home or 150 feet from a public building. Presumably, Allstadt concluded, those limits carry over for fracking.

The 1992 setbacks seemed inappropriate for modern fracking, given that current setbacks in Midland, Tex., an oil and gas hotbed, are 1,320 feet from either a house or a public building.

Setback rules for public water supplies in upstate New York were also troubling. The 2011 SGEIS calls for a 2,000-foot setback around such lakes and rivers, but steams that feed them would be protected by only a 500-foot setback. And those distances are subject to change back to as little as 150 feet after three years. By contrast, water supplies in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds are protected by 4,000-foot setbacks.

Cline, the industry spokesman, acknowledged that the state’s setbacks are “in flux.”

Allstadt’s response: “I certainly hope so. They’re totally inadequate.”

As Allstadt cruised through the 2011 SGEIS, he found it to be full of little tricks and loopholes that invite exploitation by the industry, especially its less responsible players. “If you read the SGEIS and you’ve worked in the industry, you know who wrote it. It’s pretty blatant,” he said.

… The DEC’s failure to establish – let alone enforce – rules that adequately protect the environment is not the only subject that gives Allstadt pause.

“The economics no longer look as compelling,” he said.

… Hot spots are uncommon in New York State, where the Marcellus Shale tends to be shallower and drier than ideal.

… While Allstadt might not accept the term radicalization, he has expressed concern that New York’s inferior geology will tend to draw the industry’s marginal players, at a potentially significant cost to taxpayers.

… Allstadt even urges the DEC to require drillers to use tracer agents in their drilling chemicals in order to clearly identify the culprits when private water wells are contaminated.

The industry tends to resist that level of strict accountability, and Allstadt believes the DEC has shown a willingness to defer. ... more.


Bernum to Frack One of "Canada's Richest Postal Codes"

The company recently made a financial contribution to the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

By Derek Clouthier, September 12, 2012, Cochrane Eagle

Canada's 10 Richest Postal Codes - Source: Canadian Business.comTwo new drilling sites have been approved in north Springbank, tapping into the area’s popular Cardium zone formation.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) granted the licences to the Calgary company Bernum Petroleum, who will be the operator for the two new wells.
Birch Lake Energy, also a Calgary company, is a significant partner as well.
'Bernum will drill its first well in north Springbank in the fall of 2012,' Bernum CEO and chairman Marshall Abbott indicated in an email, “and anticipates drilling and completion to be finalized before the end of the year.”
Addressing persistent concerns some area residents have had over the issue of hydraulic fracturing, ‘fracking,’ Marshall said his company has made several attempts to ensure people receive accurate information about the process of oil and gas extraction.
Marshall pointed to an open house the company held in Springbank just over a year ago as an example of how Bernum has made efforts to educate residents on new technology and Bernum’s proposed activities.
To protect ground-water resources – perhaps the most litigious issue surrounding fracking – Bernum uses a protective casing for their wellbore, which consists of a high-strength steel pipe cemented into place, to prevent any oil, gas or frack-fluid flowback from finding its way into the water table.
Marshall said Bernum has drilled and completed over 200 wells using hydraulic fracturing in their experience, and that within the north Lochend area, approximately 60 have been drilled to date.
'According to the ERCB,' Marshall stated, 'over 171,000 wells have been drilled in Alberta with no documented cases of water contamination in relation to hydraulic fracturing.'
Cochrane, north Springbank and Roxana are the three primary areas of operation for Bernum. ... more.

Birch Lake Energy , Bernum Petroleum and a Petrobakken Cochrane well featuring a 2 mile horizontal.

"The 2-mile horizontal well licensed at 4-11-26-4 W5 may lead a new technological improvement."


 That's a lot of toxic drilling waste.

Where will it all go?


Practice Lays Waste to Land

About 1.2 barrels of solid waste are created with each foot drilled, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Simply to reach the approximate 8,000-foot depth of a Barnett Shale gas well, drilling creates more than 9,600 barrels, or 403,200 gallons, of solid waste. That does not take into account any horizontal drilling performed after reaching that depth. For the 14,000 Barnett Shale wells drilled so far, the waste would cover the entire city of Fort Worth in more than an inch of drill cuttings, slurry, heavy metals and other toxic compounds.

By Spike Johnson / For the Denton Record-Chronicle and Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

Published: 31 March 2011

It's 3 a.m.

Dick Ross lies awake in bed as 18-wheelers crawl past his house. Their headlights stream through his window. They are waiting to dump drilling waste on a corn farm 50 feet from his front door. The concoction is a mystery to him, except that when it blows through the air, it strips the paint off his house.

For two years, he has fought the Texas Railroad Commission over permit violations involving the dumpsite, submitting photos of trucks dumping waste at all hours of the night and letters demanding that his neighbor's dumpsite be tested for contamination, as required by law. His campaign to shut down the dumpsite triggered threats of litigation from the waste haulers and a giant pile of e-mail correspondence from commission staff, attorneys and scientists assuring him that the dumpsite doesn't pose any health risks.

Today, sitting on the wooden porch of his rural Hillsboro home in Hill County, Ross, 64, contemplates his plans for a peaceful pursuit: raising South African Boer goats on his small 10-acre farm.

"My advice to anyone dealing with the gas industry: Sell your whole place, get the hell out," Ross says. "They cheat you out of your money, wreck your view and destroy your property value."

Yet, even as he contemplates retirement, the former educational supplies salesman is continuing his fight against the Railroad Commission's permitting process by providing guidance to others who are protesting dumpsites in their own communities.

Ross and other farmers find it hard to reconcile Texans' storied love of the land with the growing practice of spreading tons of drilling mud and other toxic waste across it, a process euphemistically called "landfarming."

As the state's permits for natural gas drilling in the Barnett Shale region soar, more and more parcels of the Texas prairie are being turned into dumping grounds for disposing of the industry's waste - increasing the thousands of approved "landfarms" already in existence.

October 2011, Drilling waste spread on farmland near Rosebud, Alberta CanadaAbout 1.2 barrels of solid waste are created with each foot drilled, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Simply to reach the approximate 8,000-foot depth of a Barnett Shale gas well, drilling creates more than 9,600 barrels, or 403,200 gallons, of solid waste. That does not take into account any horizontal drilling performed after reaching that depth. For the 14,000 Barnett Shale wells drilled so far, the waste would cover the entire city of Fort Worth in more than an inch of drill cuttings, slurry, heavy metals and other toxic compounds.

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to study much of the lifecycle of hydraulic fracturing - the controversial process of pressure-pumping chemical-laden water to release the gas - including the final disposition of millions of barrels of wastewater that flows back with the gas.

One month later, drilling waste doesn't appear to have been 'spread' too well. Near Rosebud, Alberta CanadaBut far less attention has been paid to the tons of drilling mud and other solids being spread across the land.

Some landowners open their gates and bank accounts to the industry's need to dump the waste, oblivious to environmental risks. While official eyes are averted, permits to dump are stretched beyond their limits. And as neighbors eye each other with increasing distrust, millions of gallons of toxic waste are spread on the land, sometimes overflowing into waterways, sometimes becoming airborne and blowing across the prairie.

The 986 square miles of Hill County has around 35,000 residents. Much of the land is owned by ranchers and farmers.

"These people believe what they're told - that this waste is safe," Ross says. "Now their crops won't grow."

The landfarm near Ross' home was properly permitted within the regulations current at that time, according to Railroad Commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye. After Ross complained to the commission, an inspector tested the landfarm for NORM, naturally occurring radioactive material often present in drilling waste, and found readings "within background levels for NORM" in the soil, Nye wrote in an e-mail.

The Railroad Commission has jurisdiction as long as the soil is on the ground. Once dried and airborne, that's a different matter.

The agency doesn't have jurisdiction over air quality - that belongs to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

This land is perched above the Barnett Shale, a 350 million-year-old rock formation beneath much of North Texas. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated the Barnett Shale contains about 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. Currently the largest natural gas play in the world, industry officials say, the Barnett Shale is a source of significant corporate profit and the country's natural gas transformation.

In 2008, Ross noticed changes in his view after XTO Energy Inc. secured permits to dump the equivalent of 35 Olympic-sized swimming pools of drilling waste on the Kimbrell family farmland opposite his front door.

Lines of trucks would form through the night to dump their loads, which were later found to be outside of permit regulations. Ross made open records requests of the Railroad Commission and found that the daily toxicity tests for the waste, required by state rules, were never carried out or enforced. Ross began to worry for the health of his animals as a white dust from the landfarm opposite settled on their grass and feed. He worried about a decline in his property value, too.

"I could feel the air sting my skin and make my eyes burn," Ross says.

His complaints sparked threats of legal action. The landowner and family living on the farm next door even followed him when he went to town, Ross says. Trucks would sound their horns and spin their wheels as they passed his house.

... As the line of dump trucks grew, Ross became determined and decided to take action alone. By putting enough pressure on state officials, he hoped to force the closure of the disposal site.

"If I didn't stick up for myself, no one was going to," Ross says.

He sits in worn armchair in his front room, wearing carpet slippers. His black Labrador sits at his feet as he gazes out of his window. His house wall and the narrow asphalt road are all that separate him from the 111-acre dump next door. He has no choice, he says, but to watch the quagmire of brown earth and toxic waste being smeared around the landscape by rusty bulldozers.

... Ross estimates from the permit limits that more than 2 million gallons of drilling mud were dumped on the landfarm next door.

Drilling fluids contain long lists of hazardous chemicals and heavy metals. XTO's own literature lists arsenic, lead, mercury and barium as possible ingredients. Some chemicals are powerful carcinogens or possibly harmful to the brain and nervous system. Others could interfere with the development of unborn children.

David Sterling, a professor of environmental health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, voiced concerns about the possibility of benzene and formaldehyde being dumped on farms, along with "certain amounts of radioactivity increase because fracking fluid would have been amongst heavy rock," he said. "Depending on [the] chemicals [present], there are different potentials for health impacts."

... Ross watched his neighbor plow and plant on the land immediately after dumping had ceased, and after a year, a scarce crop of corn came up.

There are no Texas regulations governing how much time must pass between the end of landfarming and when crops can be grown on the site.

"Weeds wouldn't grow on it for a year," Ross says.

He watched as even rainwater wouldn't seep into the soil during drought.

Crops such as corn will not necessarily ingest and pass on carcinogenic substances from industry waste, according to Travis Wilson, of the Texas Agri-Life Extension Service.

However, "heavy metals from soil will certainly be taken up by plant life," he said.

Cadmium, lead, silver and arsenic are all listed as part of the waste spread on the corn field next to Ross. ...more.


Beaumont Co. Fined $1.5 million For Illegal Dumping Of Toxic Drilling Mud

A Beaumont-area company has pleaded guilty in a Travis County court to eight charges in connection with illegal dumping of toxic drilling mud used in the oil and gas industry.

By Dan Wallach, November 6, 2012, Beaumont Enterprise

The company, Pemco Services Inc., was fined $1.35 million.

Pemco was convicted last week of Texas Water Code violations relating to the operation of an oil and gas waste landfarming site near Smith Road and Interstate 10.

The charges stemmed from a criminal investigation that focused on the deposit of more than 1.3 million barrels of used drilling muds onto the landfarm facility in violation of the company’s permit. The drilling wastes contained elevated amounts of heavy metals from subsurface rock that was spread onto the land surface. The water in the drilling mud also contained oil. The solids and the liquids could have polluted area waterways, said Sgt. Jim Yetter, a game warden with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department who served as lead investigator in the case.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office prosecuted the case with consent from the Jefferson County district attorney’s office, Yetter said.

State District Judge Mike Lynch ordered Pemco to pay fines totaling $1.35 million. Pemco also agreed to pay $14,534 in restitution for lab analysis by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The company also spent $1.1 million to clean up the site, which is now closed. ... more.


How ‘Landfarms’ For Disposing Drilling Waste Are Causing Problems In Texas

Nye said the Railroad Commission tries to get voluntary compliance to correct violations “before enforcement action is sought”.

... a total of nearly 57 million gallons of drilling fluids were deposited on the landfarm in violation of the permit issued by the Railroad Commission.Yet, the Commission which has the power to take “enforcement action” never did.

By Dave Fehling, November 12, 2012, StateImpact

Landfarms are privately-owned but state-regulated fields where “low toxicity waste” is thinly spread then tilled into the soil. The tainted waste is supposed to degrade naturally.

In Texas, landfarms are used to dispose of the drilling fluid used to reduce friction as the drill chews through thousands of feet of rock and sand.

But a criminal case involving the operation of a landfarm near Beaumont raises questions about how the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) is enforcing the state’s pollution laws.

A Criminal case

The Texas Environmental Enforcement Task Force, run out of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office but with statewide jurisdiction, recently won a criminal conviction and a $1.35 million fine against the company that had operated the landfarm, Pemco Services, Inc.

“For over a decade the company was out of compliance with their permit and there was little done to regulate them,” said Patricia Robertson, the task force’s environmental crimes prosecutor.

Robertson credits the efforts of a couple officers from Texas Parks and Wildlife for investigating the site and then alerting her office.

“I don’t know why (the Railroad Commission) allowed them to operate for that many years,” said Jim Yetter, a game warden with the department’s Environmental Crimes Unit who became the lead investigator on the case.

Back in 2005 another game warden had checked the site and found what later was determined to be “the pumping of unauthorized stormwater from the landfarm into nearby Peveto Bayou” according to a court document. Tipped by that game warden, the Railroad Commission sent a letter to the site operators telling them to stop the discharge.

A few years later, Yetter decided to check the site himself to see if the discharges had, in fact, ceased.

“So in 2009 I came back to follow up and we were suspicious things had not been corrected,” Yetter told StateImpact.

The discharge was still flowing and things were far from corrected, according to prosecutor Roberterson.

Ignoring the Railroad Commission

“The company pretty much ignored the Railroad Commission,” she said.

The task force would later allege that from 2002 to 2009, a total of nearly 57 million gallons of drilling fluids were deposited on the landfarm in violation of the permit issued by the Railroad Commission.Yet, the Commission which has the power to take “enforcement action” never did.

In 2010, the Texas Environmental Enforcement Task Force got search warrants to go on the site and take water samples. Prosecutors said lab tests confirmed the site was causing water pollution. They headed to court and eventually got a conviction and then earlier this month, a judge in Travis County imposed the big fine on Pemco Services, Inc. ... more.



 Land Farming




A New Land Farm For Mountain View County, Alberta?

The site would see oilfield-contaminated soil trucked to the location.

Mountain View County Councillor Open Houses Hears About Road Concerns

By Dan Singleton, November 6, 2012, Page 3 Mountain View Gazette

... Ratepayers at the open house also expressed concerns about a landfill being proposed for a four-quarter block at Highway 791 and Highway 575, southeast of Carstairs.

The site would see oilfield-contaminated soil trucked to the location.

The county has not approved the project and no public hearings have yet been held.

At the request of residents at the Oct. 30 meeting, county CAO Tony Martens said he will be gathering more information about the proposed project and will provide that information to Coun. Good, who, in turn, will inform council and Div. 1 residents of the findings.

Before the project could go ahead a rezoning from agriculture would have to be approved by council, said Martens.

As well, he said council might bring the matter up with the Alberta Environment Minister at a meeting in Edmonton next week.

In an interview following the Oct. 30 meeting Good said: “ We are going to get some answers and do what we can to help the citizens have their opinions known to the province.” ... more.


Who’s in Charge?  The Secret Standoff in CFB Suffield

A 2003 survey of sites where drilling waste had been spread on native prairie in CFB Suffield found significant problems, but the report of results was suppressed. 

... The  situation on CFB Suffield provides a microcosm of the challenges that those who want to conserve significant natural ecosystems are faced with when industry is given free rein.

If the armed forces of Canada cannot deal with it effectively, then it begs another question: who can?

By Dr. Shirley Bray, December 2006, Wild Lands Advocate

... Staff from the EUBʼs [now ERCB] Medicine Hat office conduct routine inspections of drilling rigs and facilities and respond to operational emergencies such as pipeline breaks, spills, and well blowouts. However, due to provincial government downsizing and with such a large amount of industry activity on CFB Suffield, there is heavy reliance on voluntary compliance.

... Spraying drilling waste on native prairie is not allowed on public lands in Alberta. Previously a frequent practice in CFB Suffield, land-spraying while drilling (LWD) is now allowed only on pipeline right of ways. A 2003 study by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, only recently released, documents significant problems with LWD on native prairie, including high application rates harming vegetation and breeding birds, especially during periods of drought. The study, which used several examples of industry activity in CFB Suffield, also identified major operational issues, including failure of companies to comply with guidelines. A controlled study of LWD using experimental plots on CFB Suffield is currently underway, supported by Agriculture Canada, DND and EnCana. Operational issues related to LWD continue to fester.

... Alberta Environment grants water licences under the provincial Water Act to industry operating on CFB Suffield. Ground or river water is provided for industry and cattle in dugouts. Monitoring and enforcement to ensure the honouring of licensed limits for water extraction are lacking.

• Lack of cumulative effects assessment: The environmental focus is on minimizing and repairing disturbances related to individual sites and there is no monitoring of overall effects on the prairie ecosystem in the long term. The assumption is that gas well densities up to 16 per section are neutral to ecological integrity, which is unfounded

• Degradation of wetlands: A 2000 report commissioned by DND found degradation of developed wetlands and dugouts used by AEC [now Encana and Cenovus] for a water supply. Report authors recommended restoration of developed wetlands, setting limits on water withdrawal by industry, and ensuring that industry activity avoids wetlands. Spills in 2000 and 2003 contaminated wetlands. EnCana is slow in undertaking clean-up and remediation. Despite advice to industry to avoid wetlands, drilling still occurs in or near wetlands.

• Problems with disposal of drilling waste: Problems were identified in the handling and storing of drill cuttings by industry as recently as 2003. A 2003 audit of remote sumps found four failed EUB criteria for oil content. EnCana is excavating these and attempting to bring them up to standard. A 2003 survey of sites where drilling waste had been spread on native prairie in CFB Suffield found significant problems, but the report of results was suppressed. 

• Potential air quality effects on troops: Concerns over potential gas leaks and exposure on troops training on CFB Suffield. ... more.


Environment Minister Turns Down Cenovus [Encana] Energy Project Over Wildlife Risk

By The Canadian Press, November 30, 2012, CTVNews

The federal government has vetoed an Alberta gas project proposed by Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) because it would have threatened the habitat of 19 species at risk.

Cenovus Energy initially proposed to drill up to 1,275 shallow gas wells in the CFB Suffield national wildlife area, doubling the number of wells that were in place before the area was declared a protected zone.

It’s the first decision Environment Minister Peter Kent has announced since the government passed new, streamlined, environmental assessment rules amid much controversy last spring.

“It’s clear the adverse environmental effects that would be caused by the proposed project are significant,” Kent told reporters outside the House of Commons.

“As a result, I’ve decided that the project will not be granted federal approval to proceed. The environmental impacts are simply too great.”

... Cenovus has the right to try again for approval with a revised proposal, but Kent held out little hope for a change of heart.

“There would be significant disruption, I would think, even under a new proposal.”

... The opposition NDP, on the other hand, was not impressed.

It has been obvious for years that the Cenovus proposal was a no-go, but the minister waited until the eve of United Nations climate negotiations where Canada's reputation is taking a beating, said environment critic Megan Leslie.  

“It’s amazing that the minister has set the bar so low that just doing his job is newsworthy,” Leslie said in an email.

... Alberta Premier Alison Redford said she was disappointed with Kent's ruling. ... more.


Troops At CFB Suffield Spared Further Fracking Effects While US Military Takes It To A Whole New Level




Landspraying While Drilling (LWD)

... The AEUB [now ERCB] had conducted drilling waste audits on 51 LWD sites throughout the Province. The information (paper) audit consisted of a review of information supplied from companies on disposals conducted between 2001 and 2003.  Of the 51 audits, eight passed ….

Review by LWD Review Team (John Begg, Kevin Ball, Barry Cole, Lowell Calder, Barry Adams, Bruce Cairns, Dom Ruggieri, Suzanne Hawkes-Gill) Public Lands and Forests Division, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development December 2003, released three years later in 2006, only after FOIP and public pressure.

On July 1, 1996, guidelines for LWD on White Area public land grasslands were approved for a two-year trial period, as a method to reduce the area of native prairie disturbed during sump construction. The approval of the guidelines had been pursuant to a field study undertaken during 1994/1995 to monitor the effects of LWD on native prairie using conventional equipment and methods. The research project concluded that little adverse effect was observed save for short-term coating of vegetation by land spray materials until rainfall washed materials off or until it was redistributed by wind.

November 2012 - Drilling waste 'sprayed' on farmland near Rosebud, AlbertaBy 1998, after a further two-year trial period, Public Lands accepted LWD as a potential disposal practice on native grassland, provided appropriate conditions were adhered to.  In 2001, due to increased vegetation stress from drought conditions in the Grassland National Region, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development – Public Lands and Forest Division, suspended the authorization of Landspraying While Drilling (LWD) on public rangeland, native prairie throughout the province. A review has been initiated because of industry’s request to lift the moratorium and desire to continue using LWD on native prairie on public rangeland.

... The review of LWD file paper trail and of field inspection reports from the Medicine Hat office highlighted a number of major issues including LWD projects being applied outside of the approved area, no final field report, field plans of poor quality, heavy loading rates of LWD materials and siting problems.

The survey of LWD sites within CFB Suffield highlighted concerns with the poor distribution of LWD residual solids; associated smothering impacts to grassland vegetation where there were skins and mudbacks of LWD materials; mechanical impacts like rutting; and siting problems such as application on sand dunes, watercourses, wetlands and steep slopes.

Four alternatives to LWD on native prairie were outlined including conventional sumps, remote sumps, transport to cultivated land or tame grassland, or to a disposal facility.

Most of the issues highlighted in the file review and field survey were also mentioned in staff comments, including adherence to the approved spray area, problems with spread distribution, site selection problems and problems with record keeping.

In other jurisdictions, experience with LWD was mixed. Two of three land management agencies interviewed expressed concerns about LWD. The Eastern Irrigation and CFB Suffield allow LWD but with special conditions, while the Special Areas Board does not allow LWD on native range.

... A significant number of problems and issues have been identified through the review of hundreds of project files and field reports, from a field survey of project sites, from the experience of LWD in other jusidictions, as well as the experience of departmental staff.

Really? Drilling waste 'sprayed' on farmland November 2012 near Rosebud, AlbertaThe file review and field observations revealed that on a high percentage of sites, LWD is not being applied according to the guidelines.  This is having a negative impact on native range. The current LWD policy needs to be revised with stakeholder input, to address these operational concerns.

From the review it is apparent that drilling waste applied under the LWD persists on native range longer than previously thought and may have negative impacts on native prairie even when applied according to the current guidelines. Further research will need to take place to determine the exact nature of these impacts.

As a result of this review, the committee feels that issues and operations deficiencies must be addressed before LWD can be resumed on native prairie. Recommendations are provided to address the key issues identified in the review to address administrative, operational and environmental issues.  A number of research priorities are also highlighted.

... The study did not include any analysis of direct or indirect impacts on wildlife or livestock.

... One of the major issues raised by Public Lands staff during the intervening years since LWD was adopted as an approved practice was that LWD materials were found to persist for much longer time periods that the original research suggested and that there was a general concern about the evenness of spread distribution on the landscape over the treated area.

... Visible impacts to vegetation were correlated with areas where spread materials persisted…and were observed on 71% of sites.

... Site selection problems were observed on 35% of sites…. Inappropriate sites…included a) water courses and wetlands – 19% of sites; b) sandy/dune type sites-9.5% of sites and c) application on steep slopes – 7% of sites. Ruts were up to 8 inches deep on several wetland sites where LWD application took place.

Drilling waste "sprayed" on farmland November 2012 near Rosebud, Alberta. Can you spot the regulator? We'll give you a hint ... they're standing beside the sage grouse and the northern leopard frog ...... A number of impacts on vegetation were apparent where LWD materials occurred as skins or mudpacks.  In these circumstances, LWD materials were in evidence as a smothering layer, which could suppress or eliminate the normal mid grass species associated with the range site and replace them with disturbance/weedy species.

In terms of mechanical impacts, the main one of concern was rutting which was observed twenty percent of LWD with the most common locations being turning areas, the tops of sand dunes and wetlands.

Site selection problem were evident on thirty seven percent of surveyed sites that included LWD application through watercourses and wetlands, fragile sand plains, on sand dunes as well as steep slopes.

... Despite the favorable results reported by Christie et al. (1996) in the Pedocan Land Evaluation Inc. research report, LWD has not been a successful field technique on native rangeland.

The Field studies in 1995 were conducted very carefully.  The Research land sprays were at light rates and evenly sprayed over the application area, with excellent equipment and operational control.

Sprays conducted with drilling programs have not had the same level of operational control and are often very uneven. Typically, we observe mud packs deposited at the start of each spread load and then in a relatively dilute solution being applied.  It is not unusual to find mud packs in excess of one inch thick being dropped at the start of a load.

Mudpacks from poorly conducted land spray operations kill native prairie and take years to ameliorate.

Problem land sprays have been left with inadequate clean up.

Staff time to process applications, plan and monitor land spray applications has been unacceptably high. … Industry has failed to meet mapping and record keeping requirements. Mapping has been non-existent or completely inaccurate with examples of company maps with incorrect GPS coordinates and sites that have received double spray applications over the same land base.

... In the scope of the last eight years, average precipitation to severe drought conditions have been experienced. During this period, staff have observed more evidence of LWD materials persisting on rangeland vegetation for prolonged periods. Drought conditions exacerbate the problem of residue build up.

... We have major concerns that persisting LWD materials will increase the temperature regime on the rangeland surface. … Field staff have observed that the dark coloured land spray residue (low reflectance of sunlight) absorbs more of the suns radiation and heats the surface of the prairie. In other words, sprayed range will retain heat in much the same way as bare soil.

On a sunny summer day healthy native prairie will feel cool to the touch while the land sprayed areas are hot to very hot.  In this moisture-limited environment, increased temperature flux must have an impact. Subtle effects might occur to habitat, wildlife habitat values, and there may be increased potential to negatively impact nesting birds and small slow moving wildlife of which some are considered rare or endangered.

... Water resources are increasingly scarce in southern Alberta and the energy sector is under growing scutiny to conserve water at all phases of production. Alternatives to LWD such as portable sumps, or flocking and reusing wagter coupled with hauling solids to a multi-well sump (one or two per drill program), have much less impact on the prairie and to dwindling water supplies.

We cannot ignore that one of the integrated uses on Public Land is food production. ... more.


November 2012 near Rosebud, Alberta Canada




Are There Any 'Voluntary Guidelines' For These Toxics?

CAPP's 2006 Best Management Practices for NGC/CBM:  

"Drilling fluids are transported, stored and handled in tanks. Typically, drilling fluid waste will be transported off-site for re-use and treatment/disposal. ... Drilling mud includes a number of additives to maintain the fluid at desired viscosities and weights. Some additives may be caustic, toxic, or acidic."



This Is My Prairie by Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans (2009)


Risk and Responsibility: Farming, Food And Unconventional Gas Drilling

A patchwork of state regulations allow secrecy rather than disclosure of substances used in all steps of the process, and nondisclosure agreements have been used to block access to information on specific cases that could provide meaningful public health information.

By Michelle Bamberger and Robert E. Oswald, November 12, 2012, Independent Science News

Extraction of hydrocarbon gas from tight shale formations using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has been advertised as a path toward energy independence for the United States and is being promoted worldwide.

This is tempered by environmental and societal concerns that have led to banning the practice in some countries (e.g., France), at least one state in the U.S. (Vermont), and numerous towns and cities in the United States.

In the United States, the process itself is largely regulated at the state level, with exemptions from federal laws regulating air, drinking water and hazardous waste disposal. Regulation at the state level varies considerably among states with significant shale deposits, as does the level of enforcement of regulations. The argument often given to suggest that the process is safe cites the fact that in the sixty years since the first gas well was hydraulically fractured, the industry has not found proof it finds acceptable that drinking water has been contaminated. This assertion is not universally accepted because of at least two factors.

First, it is based on a narrow definition of hydraulic fracturing, that is, solely the process of stimulation of the well; whereas, the public and many in academia are more concerned with the entire life-cycle of the drilling and extraction process with many possible routes of environmental contamination.

The second issue is the burden of proof. Is it the public or the government that bears the burden of proving that environmental harm has occurred or should the industry be required to provide scientifically acceptable proof of the safety of the process? In this paper, we will discuss regulation briefly followed by a more detailed discussion of health effects of shale gas extraction, and possible impacts on food safety.


In a recent issue of Independent Science News (1), William Sanjour carefully reviewed the inherent problems of regulatory agencies. While his view was informed by thirty years of experience working for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), his comments raise important concerns for state regulatory agencies as well. One important point that he raised was: “Agencies which enforce regulations should not write the regulations.” This was recognized by the US Department of the Interior after the Deepwater Horizon blowout when the Minerals Management Service, with allegedly strong connections to industry, was divided into permitting (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) and regulatory (Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement) branches.

Taking the example of New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which has written the proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations, will be responsible both for issuing permits for the wells and enforcing the regulations. The two most important concerns are that the NYS DEC has been chronically understaffed, particularly with regard to permitting and regulating gas wells. Expansion of the program to high volume shale gas wells will only exacerbate the problem.

Secondly, the agency has the dual missions of extracting minerals efficiently and protecting the environment. While an increase in state or federal bureaucracy will never be politically popular, there is an inherent conflict of interest between these two missions and it makes little sense to charge a small staff with this dual mandate.

Careful oversight of this global industry, which is in the best interest of the public and the industry, can only be done if regulatory agencies are truly independent and have sufficient staffing to detect problems and provide effective enforcement.

... Our interest has been on the use of animals as sentinels of human health in areas experiencing extensive shale gas and oil extraction.

Animals tend to have greater exposure to environmental threats than humans because they typically have greater exposure to air, soil and groundwater and have more frequent reproductive cycles and shorter generation times.

For example, animal owners can often afford to purchase drinking water for their own use, but purchasing drinking water for a herd of cattle can be beyond the means of some farmers. Thus, the cattle have a much greater exposure to potentially contaminated water than the farmer.

The question is whether or not any of the processes associated with shale gas and oil extraction have led to adverse health consequences in animals or humans.

We have published an analysis of case reports from 24 families with plausible exposures to toxicants associated with one or more phases of the drilling process (2).

One approach to obtaining more definitive evidence might be to determine if specific chemical residues can be found in the environment following hydraulic fracturing operations that were not present before those operations began, identify a route of exposure, and then attempt to determine if the concentrations present in the exposure pathway could have caused health problems. On the surface, this is a logical approach that has been used for many years by environmental toxicologists.

But the problem faced in analyzing the health effects of shale gas extraction is not as simple as finding hexavalent chromium in the drinking water. It is an extremely complex problem with the potential of exposures from multiple chemical entities (known and unknown), multiple routes of exposure, and unknown interactions between chemicals.

Furthermore, recent evidence suggests that the effects of chemicals at high doses cannot accurately predict effects at lower does (nonmonotonic dose response curves; 3). This is particularly true for endocrine disrupting chemicals that have been reported to be components of hydraulic fracturing fluid (4). For these reasons, the maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) of specific compounds that are used to determine the safety of drinking water are questionable. The problem is compounded by inadequate or nonexistent predrilling testing of air and water in many cases and by nondisclosure agreements tied to victim compensation that remove the details of specific cases from further study.

... Documenting individual cases will always be limited to individuals that are willing or able to talk to investigators but in our research we have run into significant unnecessary obstacles.

For example in one small area of Pennsylvania, residents were surveyed as to whether drilling had impacted the perceived quality of their water supply (the water was supplied by wells between 40 and 200 feet deep).

As of this writing, 50 of 132 families indicated that they noted changes in water quality (Prof. John Stolz, Duquesne University, personal communication) but only a small fraction were willing to provide further documentation.

In other cases, residents having presumed issues with water quality have signed nondisclosure agreements in exchange for compensation from industry. This is a worrying distortion of an important business practice.

If we take the example used above of a pharmaceutical company, it would be considered unethical to compensate individuals suffering from an unknown side effect of a drug and then require them to sign nondisclosure agreements in an attempt to keep the drug on the market.

The use of the nondisclosure agreement in issues relating to public and environmental health should be illegal (6).

... Food Safety

The impacts of shale gas drilling on food safety have not been carefully studied and little is known.

Again working from case studies, we have reported (2) that cattle exposed to wastewater from drilling operations have been taken to slaughter without further testing.

In many instances, those that have died following exposures to drilling operations have been taken to rendering plants, where their flesh has been processed into feed for other animals (e.g., chickens, pigs, fish). These are concerns without definitive proof. No routine testing is done before allowing the products derived from animals exposed to environmental contaminants to enter our food supply, nor is there adequate information on appropriate hold times (time between exposure and slaughter) for production animals with known exposures to environmental toxicants.

Equally, nothing is known about impacts on vegetable and fruit crops. We have visited farms with crops growing within tens of feet from produced water tanks (i.e., tanks containing fluids that return from the well along with the gas) and well-heads, and fields of corn and squash near impoundment ponds that contain wastewater at different stages of the drilling process. The extent to which this is a concern is not known, but deserves careful study.


The unconventional gas-drilling boom has swept across the globe in recent years without evidence that environmental and public health can be protected.

In the United States, the industry enjoys extensive subsidies, which include, among many others, exemptions from federal laws regulating clean air, clean water, and the disposal of toxic substances.

A patchwork of state regulations allow secrecy rather than disclosure of substances used in all steps of the process, and nondisclosure agreements have been used to block access to information on specific cases that could provide meaningful public health information.

Without complete transparency (disclosure of all chemicals used and outlawing nondisclosure agreements in cases involving public health) and complete testing, science cannot proceed unimpeded. Without careful science demonstrating, not the absence of proof of harm, but rather the clear absence of harm to public health, neither state nor federal regulations can assure that the food supply and the health of individuals living near gas drilling and processing operations will be protected.

Until we can protect public health with greater certainty, unconventional shale gas extraction should be severely limited or banned, using the subsidies currently provided to support this industry to instead develop and deploy renewable forms of energy. ... more.


Prof: Fracking Fluid Harmful To Animal Health

'The first case that really caught my attention, and really caught most people’s attention, was that case in Louisiana where 17 cows died within an hour that is highly unusual for cattle being exposed to petroleum products,' Bamberger said. 'Usually, they’ll die within one to three days, not an hour.'



By Bob Hackett, March 14, 2012, The Cornell Daily Sun

Animals are suddenly dropping dead, becoming ill and sterile, and birthing deformed offspring in places where hydrofracturing, or “fracking,” for natural gas is practiced reports a new study by Prof. Robert Oswald, molecular medicine, and his wife Michelle Bamberger, a private practice veterinarian. Their paper, titled “Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health,” appeared in the January issue of New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy and is one of the first peer-reviewed papers to discuss fracking’s potential negative health effects on both humans and other animals.

The team analyzed 24 cases of affected animals, including cows, goats, chickens, horses, deer, birds, cats, koi, llamas and humans across six states (Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas). Reproductive problems were most common, but other symptoms in both animals and humans included upper respiratory issues, burning of the eyes, nosebleeds, diarrhea, vomiting, rashes, headaches and neurological problems.

Poisoned animals portend danger not only because they may degrade the nation’s food supply but also because they serve as indicators of or, in the paper’s terms, “sentinels” for, human health. Since these animals have faster reproductive cycles and shorter generation times than humans, more can be learned and earlier about the health effects of gas drilling by studying them first, the paper argues.

By the paper’s logic, such animals are inadvertent “canaries in a coalmine.”

'What I suspect is that if I follow these cases long enough I am going to start to see reproductive effects in people too,' Bamberger said.  


The paper compares the oil and gas industry’s approach to public health to the tobacco industry’s rejection of a link between smoking and cancer. Its abstract warns that “Without rigorous scientific studies, the gas drilling boom sweeping the world will remain an uncontrolled health experiment on an enormous scale.”

“I think the example we give in the paper that is probably the most compelling of all is case number one, where a child was sick from the get-go over there and had all these vague sorts of symptoms and some of the animals around that neighborhood were dying and dying in ways that didn’t really make sense to the veterinarians or to the owners. It took [those animal deaths] for the doctor to do something that you would not normally do in a child that looked fairly healthy otherwise, and that is to look for signs of poisoning,” Bamberger said.

A toxicology test revealed that arsenic poisoning caused the child’s sickness, the paper reported. Since arsenic naturally occurs in shale, the paper said that well water contamination by surface spillage of fracking wastewater was a potential cause for the child’s illness.

To resolve these uncertainties, Bamberger and Oswald advocate careful and complete testing of the air and of all water sources for animals and humans before and after drilling starts. If certain contaminants appear in the second round a person can then test for them in the tissues and fluids of people and animals thereby providing a “clincher,” in Bamberger’s terms, that fracking is to blame.

It is difficult to implicate fracking with absolute certainty because in most states there is no law requiring hydrofracturing companies to disclose the proprietary chemicals they use, Oswald said. Nondisclosure agreements similarly prevent a thorough investigation of all possible data, he said.

“That’s where we hit the wall as researchers,” Oswald said, “and where others doing health research will hit the wall too.” ... more.





Residents Concerned About Fracking Rally In Cochrane

'A fellow drove by one of those flare shields — he came to me the next day he had a bubbling red rash.… He had boils on his forehead. One of my other neighbours had to shoot six cows that had rampant cancer' 


Toys for cows? Giant 'flare shield' on multi-well pad. Rocky View County, Alberta  

3 'flare shields' on a well pad. How many do they need for one well?CBC News  Sep 15, 2012 

About 40 people living in and around the Cochrane area west of Calgary gathered Saturday to rally against fracking.

... Many people, including Karen Faulk, are concerned about air and groundwater contamination.

“When you start taking random stories, you start to see patterns and for me I ask why?” Faulk explained.

Her concerns are echoed by many who showed up to the rally including.

“A fellow drove by one of those flare shields — he came to me the next day he had a bubbling red rash.… He had boils on his forehead. One of my other neighbours had to shoot six cows that had rampant cancer,” said Gary Tresidder at the rally.

Local residents say people living near the wells are losing their hair and they worry cancer rates are higher in those areas. ... more.


Blackened 'flare shield'. This one looks a little hot. Rocky View County, Alberta


Interesting colours, what's cooking? Two 'flare shields" on a multi-well pad at night. Rocky View County, Alberta 



Dead Calves and Silences: Quarantined Cows Gave Birth to Stillborn Calves

'It's abominable,' says Johnson, who along with her husband Don, has been raising cows on that land for 53 years, after taking over the farm from Don Johnson's grandfather. 

'They were born dead or extremely weak, It's highly unusual,' she said. 'I might lose one or two calves a year ...

but I don't lose eight out of eleven.' ... more.






Fracking’s Toll on Pets, Livestock Chills Farmers: Commentary

Energy representatives dismiss the veterinarians’ study. They say that health indicators have actually improved in areas with shale development.

By Mike Di Paola - Feb 7, 2012, Bloomberg

Smelling gas one morning, a southern Pennsylvania farmer almost passed out when he went outside to check on his bellowing cows.

One of the animals did keel over, kicking its feet in spasms. A couple of days later, a calf was fighting for its life, the farmer said. It died.

Something awful is happening over the Marcellus Shale, the vast geological formation in eastern North America where energy companies are looking for natural gas.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process for extracting gas by injecting high volumes of water and chemicals into deep wells, has sparked complaints about ruined landscapes and fouled groundwater. Increasingly there is evidence, mostly anecdotal, that animals are suffering.

A new study by veterinarian Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald, a professor of veterinary medicine at Cornell University, chronicles case studies of dozens of farmers and pet owners in six states over the Marcellus Shale.
Their findings, published in “New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy,” are a harrowing account of sudden deaths of cattle, as well as reproductive and neurological problems in horses, cats, dogs and other animals.

The Pennsylvania farmers I spoke with have lost cows, calves, a horse, a couple dozen chickens. Many of the animals succumb in the same way: seizure-like symptoms, gasping for breath and a quick wasting away. A Rottweiler and a Dalmatian also fell ill and died.

Crops Lost

These farmers are getting out of the beef business, in part over concern that their animals will become delivery systems for contaminants.

An organic farmer from southeast Ohio told me he has abandoned his cash crop, ginseng, for now, concerned that contaminants would enter his product. He began noticing changes around his 20-acre property in 2007, when a fracking operation began dumping wastewater nearby. He lost quite a few deer that were drawn to the brine and antifreeze in the fluid.

Energy representatives dismiss the veterinarians’ study. They say that health indicators have actually improved in areas with shale development. ... more.


The Chris and Kay Velasquez Story: Cattle and Contamination in the Oil and Gas Patch (2010)




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Another Voice: Fracking Spoiled Farm’s Hay Fields

The next time you are tempted to believe the oil and gas industry propaganda, stop by my farm for a dose of reality.

By John Peters, October 15, 2012, The Buffalo News

The oil and gas industry apparently believes its own propaganda – that modern drilling techniques are environmentally friendly. Maybe it’s time the true-believers at the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York stop by my small farm in the Town of Arcade and see, first hand, the mess made by one of their drillers.

Before the drillers arrived two years ago, my land produced excellent quality hay, feed for my livestock. Then the state Department of Environmental Conservation gave the company permission to level eight acres of land for a drilling rig next to my hay fields.

Down the drill bit went to the Theresa sandstone 6,000 feet below. Up came tens of thousands of gallons of toxic drilling fluids to fill a pond built for that purpose. But, when four days of heavy rain washed out the small poly-lined pond, guess where all of those toxic fluids ended up? Yep, in my fields and an adjoining neighbor’s field.

How could this happen if the drilling is environmentally friendly? Well, first of all, the drillers did not care enough to protect my land from a natural downpour, a commonplace event. Perhaps to save a few construction dollars and fatten their bottom line?

Next, the DEC failed to inspect the drilling operation to make sure my land was protected. If the DEC has the authority to issue the drilling permit, doesn’t it also share the responsibility to protect my land and, when things go wrong, share the blame? Can we count on the state to do its job? Apparently not.

I asked the Wyoming County Soil and Conservation office to look at my hay field. Its agent described the damage caused by the drillers in a blistering five-page report. At last, I had some hope that the drilling company would do the right thing and offer to pay for removal of the toxic wastes covering my hay field. Nope. The company did not move. And the county has no legal authority to force drillers to fix anything.

Then, to my surprise, an engineering firm hired by the drillers stopped by. His conclusion agreed with the Wyoming County study. My hay field was ruined by the company’s own drillers. The engineer’s recommendation: Build a storm retention pond and release the water slowly through the new roadway. The storm water retention pond was never built.

Finally it dawned on me. No one would help me. Not the drilling company. Not the Oil and Gas Association that represents the drilling company. Not my own town government, not even the state agency that gave the driller a license to ruin my hay field.

Now I am buying hay at $8 a bale for my cattle – many times more than the costs to grow my own hay. I have hired a lawyer and I am suing the drillers.

The next time you are tempted to believe the oil and gas industry propaganda, stop by my farm for a dose of reality.

John Peters runs a small farm in the Town of Arcade. 


Fracking In The Foodshed

Martha Goodsell . Christine Applegate

Click on arrow in top right corner of presentation to enlarge



Brochure: Agriculture and High Volume Slick Water Fracturing are NOT Compatible



North Dakota Turns Blind Eye To Dumping Of Fracking Waste In Waterways And Farmland

Releases of drilling and fracking waste, which is often laced with carcinogenic chemicals, have wiped out aquatic life in streams and wetlands.

... There's little understanding of what long-term impacts hundreds of such releases could be having on western North Dakota's land and water

By Nicholas Kusnetz, June 8, 2012, ProPublica

Oil drilling has sparked a frenzied prosperity in Jeff Keller's formerly quiet corner of western North Dakota in recent years, bringing an infusion of jobs and reviving moribund local businesses.

But Keller, a natural resource manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, has seen a more ominous effect of the boom, too: Oil companies are spilling and dumping drilling waste onto the region's land and into its waterways with increasing regularity.

... The downside is waste—lots of it. Companies produce millions of gallons of salty, chemical-infused wastewater, known as brine, as part of drilling and fracking each well. Drillers are supposed to inject this material thousands of feet underground into disposal wells, but some of it isn't making it that far.

According to data obtained by ProPublica, oil companies in North Dakota reported more than 1,000 accidental releases of oil, drilling wastewater or other fluids in 2011, about as many as in the previous two years combined. Many more illicit releases went unreported, state regulators acknowledge, when companies dumped truckloads of toxic fluid along the road or drained waste pits illegally.

State officials say most of the releases are small. But in several cases, spills turned out to be far larger than initially thought, totaling millions of gallons. Releases of brine, which is often laced with carcinogenic chemicals and heavy metals, have wiped out aquatic life in streams and wetlands and sterilized farmland. The effects on land can last for years, or even decades.

... State officials say they rely on companies to clean up spills voluntarily, and that in most cases, they do. Mark Bohrer, who oversees spill reports for the Department of Mineral Resources, the agency that regulates drilling, said the number of spills is acceptable given the pace of drilling and that he sees little risk of long-term damage.

Kris Roberts, who responds to spills for the Health Department, which protects state waters, agreed, but acknowledged that the state does not have the manpower to prevent or respond to illegal dumping.

"It's happening often enough that we see it as a significant problem," he said. "What's the solution? Catching them. What's the problem? Catching them."

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, a lobbying group, said the industry is doing what it can to minimize spills and their impacts.

"You're going to have spills when you have more activity," he said. "I would think North Dakotans would say the industry is doing a good job."

... The growth has come at a cost, however. At a conference on oil field infrastructure in October, one executive noted that McKenzie County, which sits in the heart of the oil patch and had a population of 6,360 people in 2010, required nearly $200 million in road repairs.

The number of spill reports, which generally come from the oil companies themselves, nearly doubled from 2010 to 2011. Energy companies report their spills to the Department of Mineral Resources, which shares them with the Health Department. The two agencies work together to investigate incidents.

In December, a stack of reports a quarter-inch thick piled up on Kris Roberts' desk. He received 34 new cases in the first week of that month alone.

"Is it a big issue?" he said. "Yes, it is."

... Of the 1,073 releases reported last year, about 60 percent involved oil and one-third spread brine. In about two-thirds of the cases, material was not contained to the accident site and leaked into the ground or waterways.

But the official data gives only a partial picture, Roberts said, missing an unknown number of unreported incidents.

"One, five, 10, 100? If it didn't get reported, how do you count them?" he said.

He said truckers often dump their wastewater rather than wait in line at injection wells. The Department of Mineral Resources asks companies how much brine their wells produce and how much they dispose of as waste, but its inspectors don't audit those numbers. Short of catching someone in the act, there's no way to stop illegal dumping.

The state also has no real estimate for how much fluid spills out accidentally from tanks, pipes, trucks and other equipment. Companies are supposed to report spill volumes, but officials acknowledge the numbers are often inexact or flat-out wrong. In 40 cases last year, the company responsible didn't know how much had spilled so it simply listed the volume of fluid as zero.

In one case last July, workers for Petro Harvester, a small, Texas-based oil company, noticed a swath of dead vegetation in a field near one of the company's saltwater disposal lines. The company reported the spill the next day, estimating that 12,600 gallons of brine had leaked.

When state and county officials came to assess the damage, however, they found evidence of a much larger accident. The leak, which had gone undetected for days or weeks, had sterilized about 24 acres of land. Officials later estimated the spill to be at least 2 million gallons of brine, Roberts said, which would make it the largest ever in the state.

Yet state records still put the volume at 12,600 gallons and Roberts sees no reason to change it.

"It's almost like rubbing salt in a raw wound," Roberts said, criticizing efforts to tabulate a number as "bean counting." Changing a report would not change reality, nor would it help anyone, he added. "If we try to go back and revisit the past over and over and over again, what's it going to do? Nothing good."

In a written statement, Petro Harvester said tests showed the spill had not contaminated groundwater and that it would continue monitoring the site for signs of damage. State records show the company hired a contractor to cover the land with 40 truckloads of a chemical that leaches salt from the soil.

Nearly a year later, however, even weeds won't grow in the area, said Darwin Peterson, who farms the land. While Petro Harvester has promised to compensate him for lost crops, Peterson said he hasn't heard from the company in months and he doesn't expect the land to be usable for years. "It's pretty devastating," he said.

... Daryl Peterson, a client of Braaten's who is not related to Darwin Peterson, said a series of drilling waste releases stretching back 15 years have rendered several acres unusable of the 2,000 or so he farms. The state has not compelled the companies that caused the damage to repair it, he said. Peterson hasn't wanted to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would take to haul out the dirt and replace it, so the land lies fallow.

"I pay taxes on that land," he said.

... Six years ago, a four-inch saltwater pipeline ruptured just outside Linda Monson's property line, leaking about a million gallons of salty wastewater.

As it cascaded down a hill and into Charbonneau Creek, which cuts through Monson's pasture, the spill deposited metals and carcinogenic hydrocarbons in the soil. The toxic brew wiped out the creek's fish, turtles and other life, reaching 15 miles downstream.

After suing Zenergy Inc., the oil company that owns the line, Monson reached a settlement that restricts what she can say about the incident.

"When this first happened, it pretty much consumed my life," Monson said. "Now I don't even want to think about it."

The company has paid a $70,000 fine and committed to cleaning the site, but the case shows how difficult the cleanup can be. When brine leaks into the ground, the sodium binds to the soil, displacing other minerals and inhibiting plants' ability to absorb nutrients and water. Short of replacing the soil, the best option is to try to speed the natural flushing of the system, which can take decades.

Zenergy has tried both. According to a Department of Mineral Resources report, the company has spent more than $3 million hauling away dirt and pumping out contaminated groundwater — nearly 31 million gallons as of December 2010, the most recent data available.

But more than a dozen acres of Monson's pasture remain fenced off and out of use. The cattle no longer drink from the creek, which was their main water source. Zenergy dug a well to replace it.

Shallow groundwater in the area remains thousands of times saltier than it should be and continues to leak into the stream and through the ground, contaminating new areas.

There's little understanding of what long-term impacts hundreds of such releases could be having on western North Dakota's land and water, said Micah Reuber.

Until last year, Reuber was the environmental contaminant specialist in North Dakota for the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees wetlands and waterways.

Reuber quit after growing increasingly frustrated with the inadequate resources devoted to the position. Responding to oil field spills was supposed to be a small part of his job, but it came to consume all of his time.

"It didn't seem like we were keeping pace with it at all," he said. "It got to be demoralizing." ... more. 


Fracking Our Food Supply

Schilke’s neighbors love her black Angus beef, but she’s no longer sharing or eating it—not since fracking began on thirty-two oil and gas wells within three miles of her 160-acre ranch and five of her cows dropped dead.

Healthy cattle on the Schilke ranch in North Dakota, before fracking began

By Elizabeth Royte, November 28, 2012, The Nation 

... But there’s growing evidence that these two impulses, toward energy and food independence, may be at odds with each other.

Tonight’s guests have heard about residential drinking wells tainted by fracking fluids in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Colorado. They’ve read about lingering rashes, nosebleeds and respiratory trauma in oil-patch communities, which are mostly rural, undeveloped, and lacking in political influence and economic prospects. The trout nibblers in the winery sympathize with the suffering of those communities. But their main concern tonight is a more insidious matter: the potential for drilling and fracking operations to contaminate our food. The early evidence from heavily fracked regions, especially from ranchers, is not reassuring.

Jacki Schilke and her sixty cattle live in the top left corner of North Dakota, a windswept, golden-hued landscape in the heart of the Bakken Shale. Schilke’s neighbors love her black Angus beef, but she’s no longer sharing or eating it—not since fracking began on thirty-two oil and gas wells within three miles of her 160-acre ranch and five of her cows dropped dead. Schilke herself is in poor health. A handsome 53-year-old with a faded blond ponytail and direct blue eyes, she often feels lightheaded when she ventures outside. She limps and has chronic pain in her lungs, as well as rashes that have lingered for a year. Once, a visit to the barn ended with respiratory distress and a trip to the emergency room. Schilke also has back pain linked with overworked kidneys, and on some mornings she urinates a stream of blood.

Ambient air testing by a certified environmental consultant detected elevated levels of benzene, methane, chloroform, butane, propane, toluene and xylene—compounds associated with drilling and fracking, and also with cancers, birth defects and organ damage. Her well tested high for sulfates, chromium, chloride and strontium; her blood tested positive for acetone, plus the heavy metals arsenic (linked with skin lesions, cancers and cardiovascular disease) and germanium (linked with muscle weakness and skin rashes). Both she and her husband, who works in oilfield services, have recently lost crowns and fillings from their teeth; tooth loss is associated with radiation poisoning and high selenium levels, also found in the Schilkes’ water.

State health and agriculture officials acknowledged Schilke’s air and water tests but told her she had nothing to worry about. Her doctors, however, diagnosed her with neurotoxic damage and constricted airways. “I realized that this place is killing me and my cattle,” Schilke says. She began using inhalers and a nebulizer, switched to bottled water, and quit eating her own beef and the vegetables from her garden. (Schilke sells her cattle only to buyers who will finish raising them outside the shale area, where she presumes that any chemical contamination will clear after a few months.) “My health improved,” Schilke says, “but I thought, ‘Oh my God, what are we doing to this land?’”

... Earlier this year, Michelle Bamberger, an Ithaca veterinarian, and Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, published the first (and, so far, only) peer-reviewed report to suggest a link between fracking and illness in food animals. The authors compiled case studies of twenty-four farmers in six shale-gas states whose livestock experienced neurological, reproductive and acute gastrointestinal problems. Exposed either accidentally or incidentally to fracking chemicals in the water or air, scores of animals have died. The death toll is insignificant when measured against the nation’s livestock population (some 97 million beef cattle go to market each year), but environmental advocates believe these animals constitute an early warning.

Exposed animals “are making their way into the food system, and it’s very worrisome to us,” Bamberger says. “They live in areas that have tested positive for air, water and soil contamination. Some of these chemicals could appear in milk and meat products made from these animals.”

... In addition to the cases documented by Bamberger, hair testing of sick cattle that grazed around well pads in New Mexico found petroleum residues in fifty-four of fifty-six animals. In North Dakota, wind-borne fly ash, which is used to solidify the waste from drilling holes and contains heavy metals, settled over a farm: one cow, which either inhaled or ingested the caustic dust, died, and a stock pond was contaminated with arsenic at double the accepted level for drinking water.

Cattle that die on the farm don’t make it into the nation’s food system. (Though they’re often rendered to make animal feed for chickens and pigs—yet another cause for concern.) But herd mates that appear healthy, despite being exposed to the same compounds, do: farmers aren’t required to prove their livestock are free of fracking contaminants before middlemen purchase them. Bamberger and Oswald consider these animals sentinels for human health. “They’re outdoors all day long, so they’re constantly exposed to air, soil and groundwater, with no break to go to work or the supermarket,” Bamberger says. “And they have more frequent reproductive cycles, so we can see toxic effects much sooner than with humans.”

… Although energy companies don’t make a habit of telling potential lease signers about the environmental risks they might face, the Securities and Exchange Commission requires them to inform potential investors. In a 2008 filing, Cabot Industries cited “well site blowouts, cratering and explosions; equipment failures; uncontrolled flows of natural gas, oil or well fluids; fires; formations with abnormal pressures; pollution and other environmental risks.” In 2011, oil companies in North Dakota reported more than 1,000 accidental releases of oil, drilling wastewater or other fluids, with many more releases likely unreported. Between 2008 and 2011, drilling companies in Pennsylvania reported 2,392 violations of law that posed a direct threat to the environment and safety of communities. 

Schilke looks left and right, twice, for oncoming tanker trucks, then scoots down a gravel road in her camo-patterned four-wheeler. She parks alongside a leased pasture about a mile from her house and folds her body through a barbed-wire fence. “These guys are much healthier than those I’ve got at home,” she says, puffing as she hikes up a straw-colored hill. “There’s Judy…that’s Buttercup…those are my little bulls.” The black-faced animals turn to face her; some amble through the tall grass and present their foreheads for rubbing. “We’re upwind of the drill rigs here,” Schilke says. “They’re high enough to miss some of the road dust, and they’ve got good water.” Ever since a heater-treater unit, which separates oil, gas and brine, blew out on a drill pad a half-mile upwind of Schilke’s ranch, her own creek has been clogged with scummy growth, and it regularly burps up methane. “No one can tell me what’s going on,” she says. But since the blowout, her creek has failed to freeze, despite temperatures of forty below. (Testing found sulfate levels of 4,000 parts per million: the EPA’s health goal for sulfate is 250 parts per million.)

Schilke’s troubles began in the summer of 2010, when a crew working at this site continued to force drilling fluid down a well that had sprung a leak. Soon, Schilke’s cattle were limping, with swollen legs and infections. Cows quit producing milk for their calves; they lost from sixty to eighty pounds in a week; and their tails mysteriously dropped off.

(Lab rats exposed to the carcinogen 2-butoxyethanol, a solvent used in fracking, have 
lost their tails, but a similar connection with cattle hasn’t been shown. In people, breathing, touching or consuming enough of the chemical can lead to pulmonary edema and coma.)


2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE). From "What Chemicals Are Used" Fracfocus.ca - This website currently only displays some well information for British Columbia, Canada. As well, it does not disclose all chemicals used, as many are proprietary.


Schilke ranch cow that has lost its tail, one of many ailments found in cattle following hydrofracturing of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota

An inveterate label reader who obsessively tracks her animals’ nutritional intake, Schilke couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Neither could local veterinarians. She nursed individual cows for weeks and, with much sorrow, put a $5,000 bull out of its misery with a bullet. Upon examination, the animal’s liver was found to be full of tunnels and its lungs congested with pneumonia. Before the year was out, five cows had died, in addition to several cats and two dogs. (A feline autopsy came back inconclusive, but subsequent hair testing of cows, cats and dogs revealed sulfate levels high enough to cause polio in cattle.) Inside Schilke’s house today, where the china cabinets are kept empty for fear of a shattering drill-site explosion, nearly a dozen cats sneeze and cough, some with their heads tilted at a creepy angle.

Before the drilling started, two cars a day traveled down Schilke’s gravel road. Now, it’s 300 trucks hauling sand, fresh water, wastewater, chemicals, drill cuttings and drilling equipment. Most of the tankers are placarded for hazardous or radioactive material. Drilling and fracking a single well requires 2,000 truck trips, and each pass of a vehicle sends a cyclone of dust and exhaust fumes into the air. Mailbox numbers are obliterated, conversations are choked off, and animals die of “dust pneumonia.” (More formally known as bovine respiratory disease, the illness is associated with viral, fungal and bacterial infection.)

Ordinarily, Schilke hauls her calves to auction when they’re eight months old. “Buyers come from everywhere for Dakota cows,” she says. The animals are then raised on pasture or in feedlots until they are big enough for slaughter. No longer Schilke cattle, they’re soon part of the commodity food system: anonymous steaks and chops on supermarket shelves. Now, Schilke is diffident about selling her animals. “I could get good money for these steers,” she says, cocking her head toward a pair of sleek adolescents. “They seem to be in very good shape and should have been butchered. But I won’t sell them because I don’t know if they’re OK.”

Nor does anyone else. By design, secrecy shrouds the hydrofracking process, casting a shadow that extends over consumers’ right to know if their food is safe.

… If scientists and citizens can’t find out precisely what is in drilling or fracking fluids or air emissions at any given time, it’s difficult to test whether any contaminants have migrated into the water, soil or food—and whether they can harm humans. It gets even more complicated: without information on the interactions between these chemicals and others already existing in the environment, an animal’s cause of death, Bamberger says, “is anyone’s guess.”

... Thanks to public pressure, several states have started to tighten regulations on the cement casings used to line wells, and the Obama administration recently required energy companies to disclose, on the industry-sponsored website fracfocus
.org, the fracking chemicals used on public land. (States regulate fracking on private land and set different requirements.) Still, information about quantities and concentrations of the chemicals remains secret, as do compounds considered proprietary. Further, no state requires a company to disclose its ingredients until a fracking job is complete. At that point, it’s easy to blame the presence of toxins in groundwater on a landowner’s use of pesticides, fertilizers or even farm equipment. 

... The relatively small number of animals reported sick or dead invites the question: If oil and gas operations are so risky, why aren’t there more cases? There likely are, but few scientists are looking for them. (“Who’s got the money to study this?” Colborn asks rhetorically.) Rural vets won’t speak up for fear of retaliation. And farmers aren’t talking for myriad reasons: some receive royalty checks from the energy companies (either by choice or because the previous landowner leased their farm’s mineral rights); some have signed nondisclosure agreements after receiving a financial settlement; and some are in active litigation. Some farmers fear retribution from community members with leases; 
others don’t want to fall afoul of “food disparagement” laws 
or get sued by an oil company for defamation (as happened with one Texan after video of his flame-spouting garden hose was posted on the Internet. The oil company won; the 
homeowner is appealing).

... some institutions that specialize in risk have started to connect the dots. Nationwide Mutual Insurance, which sells agricultural insurance, recently announced that it would not cover damages related to fracking. Rabobank, the world’s largest agricultural bank, reportedly no longer sells mortgages to farmers with gas leases. And in the boldest move yet by a government official, Christopher Portier, director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called for studies that “include all the ways people can be exposed, such as through air, water, soil, plants and animals.” While the EPA is in the midst of a $1.9 million study of fracking’s impact on water, no government agency has taken up Portier’s challenge to study plants and animals.

The possibility of chemical contamination aside, oil and gas operations have already affected food producers. “I lost six acres of hayfields when the gas company put roads in,” says Terry Greenwood, a rancher in western Pennsylvania. “Now I have to buy more feed for my cattle.” (Like other farmers hurt by drilling and fracking, he still pays taxes on his unproductive land.) Others have lost the use of stock ponds or creeks to brine spills. 

“We’ve got 12,000 wells in the Bakken, and they each take up six acres,” says Mark Trechock, former director of the Dakota Resource Council. “That’s 72,000 acres right there, without counting the waste facilities, access roads, stored equipment and man camps that go along with the wells.” Before the drilling boom, that land might have produced durum wheat, barley, oats, canola, flax, sunflowers, pinto beans, lentils and peas. In Pennsylvania, where nearly 6,500 wells have been drilled since 2000, the Nature Conservancy estimates that thirty acres are directly or indirectly affected for every well pad. 

... Besides clean air, farmers need clean water—lots of it. But some farmers now find themselves competing with energy companies for this increasingly precious resource. At water auctions in Colorado, the oil and gas industry has paid utilities up to twenty times the price that farmers typically pay. In Wyoming, ranchers have switched from raising beef to selling their water. Unwilling to risk her animals’ health to creek water that’s possibly tainted, Schilke spent $4,000 last summer hauling safe water from town to her ranch. “I’d wait in line for hours,” she says, “usually behind tanker trucks buying water to frack wells.”

Given the absence of studies on the impacts of drilling and fracking in plants and animals, as well as inadequate inspection and scant traceability in the food chain, it’s hard to know what level of risk consumers face when drinking milk or eating meat or vegetables produced in a frack zone. Unless, of course, you’re Jacki Schilke, and you feel marginally healthier when you quit eating the food that you produced downwind or downstream from drill rigs. But many consumers—those intensely interested in where and how their food is grown—aren’t waiting for hard data to tell them what is or isn’t safe. For them, the perception of pollution is just as bad as the real thing. Ken Jaffe, who raises grass-fed cattle in upstate New York, says, “My beef sells itself. My farm is pristine. But a restaurant doesn’t want to visit and see a drill pad on the horizon.” 

Nor do the 16,200 members of the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn, which buys one cow per week from Jaffe. “If hydrofracking is allowed in New York State, the co-op will have to stop buying from farms anywhere near the drilling because of fears of contamination,” says Joe Holtz, general manager of the co-op. That’s $4 million in direct sales, with economic multipliers up and down the local food chain, affecting seed houses, creameries, equipment manufacturers and so on. 

Already, wary farmers in the Marcellus are seeking land away from the shale. The outward migration is simultaneously raising prices for good farmland in the Hudson River Valley, which lies outside the shale zone, and depressing the price of land over the Marcellus. According to John Bingham, an organic farmer in upstate New York who is involved in regional planning, lower prices entice absentee investors to buy up farmland and gain favorable “farm rate” tax breaks, even as they speculate on the gas boom. “Fracking is not a healthy development for food security in regions near fracking or away from it,” Bingham concludes.

... “People at the farmers’ market are starting to ask exactly where this food comes from,” says Stephen Cleghorn, a Pennsylvania goat farmer. 

With a watchful eye on Pennsylvania’s turmoil, many New York farmers have started to test their water pre-emptively, in the event that Governor Andrew Cuomo lifts the state’s current moratorium on fracking. And in the commercial kitchens of a city obsessed with the provenance of its prosciutto, chefs like Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez, a founder of Chefs for the Marcellus and the executive pastry chef at Manhattan’s Print Restaurant, are keeping careful tabs on their regional suppliers.

“I have a map of the Marcellus and my farmers on 
my office wall,” Carlucci-Rodriguez says at the Brooklyn 
winery event. “So far, I haven’t stopped buying from any-
one. But I’m a believer in the precautionary principle.” She nods to a colleague who’s dishing up summer squash with peach slices and ricotta. “We shouldn’t have to be defending our land and water,” she says with a sigh. “We should 
be feeding people.”... more.




Alberta Is The Largest Cattle-Producing Province In Canada

It led the nation in cattle and calf inventories, with an estimated 5.5 million head as of July 1.2010, or nearly 40% of the national total (14.0 million head). Alberta has 1.95 million breeding beef cows and heifers which is about 39% of Canada's total herd. 

Alberta's cattle industry has an economic multiplier effect of about 4:1, this is an overall benefit of over $11.6 billion to the economy ... more.


Source: Alberta Oil Magazine.com


Beef Inspectors Told To Turn Blind Eye To Contaminated Carcasses

By Philip Ling, November 28, 2012, CTV News, Food Safety First

OTTAWA — Federal beef inspectors at the XL Foods plant in southern Alberta whose E. coli crisis sparked the country’s largest meat recall were ordered to turn a blind eye to contamination on carcasses being processed for sale to Canadians, CTV News has learned, a directive that was imposed by the inspectors’ supervisors lasting four years.

The 2008 memo written by a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) meat hygiene supervisor at the Brooks, Alta., plant, obtained by CTV, instructed CFIA inspectors stationed at one of the plant’s final inspection stops to give extra scrutiny to carcasses shipped to Japan, but to ignore visible fecal and intestinal contamination on meat for Canadians.

“Our number 1 priority is to ensure this standard is met with Japan eligible carcasses,” the memo said of the inspection station.

“Ensure that non-Japan-eligible carcasses are not inspected for spinal cord/dura-mater, OCD (other carcass defects) and minor ingesta,” the note continued. “Ignore them.”

The union representing workers at the Brooks plant says this practice is “ridiculous.”

“There’s one standard for beef being shipped to Japan and there’s another standard for beef being shipped elsewhere,” said Doug O’Halloran, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 401. “It is incredible that you could allow material to leave the plant that could have contamination on it just because it’s not going to Japan.

“No disrespect to Japan, but what about the rest of the human beings in the world? It’s like we’re second class citizens,” he said.

The memo — dated Sept. 12, 2008 — was sent to CFIA inspection staff at the Brooks, Alta., plant and was re-issued to them again in 2010 and 2011.

The CFIA memo added that the contaminants can be detected later on in the meat-processing process, something with which the union representing CFIA inspectors disagree.

“What (the CFIA memo) is saying is that for non-Japan-destined carcasses, don’t worry about seeing minor defects and that the problem will be picked up later on,” Agriculture Union president Bob Kingston. “But the problem with that is it’s at the end of the inspection line. If it’s not dealt with there, nobody is going to.” ... more.


Pennsylvania Farmers Blame Fracking For Illness, Rashes

"I don’t drink my water, nor do I drink the milk we produce.”

By Katie Corrado, November 20, 2012, CNY Central

... Chesapeake Energy began drilling the first of nine hydrofracking wells around Carol’s property in December 2010. Carol says she noticed a change in her water in March 2011, and within months, she and her daughter broke out in rashes.

Carol is convinced her water is contaminated by the fracking. “We ended up experiencing rashes on our bodies, and I still have rashes,” Carol said in an exclusive interview. “Not as bad [now] because I only shower in my water. I don’t drink my water, nor do I drink the milk we produce.”

Carol says her water now gels like Jell-o and sometimes contains sand – and it’s what they fear is causing so many problems. Her daughter suffered much worse than just a rash, becoming sick to the point of hospitalization.

“Her spleen and her liver and her right ovary were very enlarged,” Carol explained. “They treated her for a urinary tract infection. And four days later, they called and said, ‘We don’t know what’s wrong with her. She does not have a urinary tract infection.’ And just like the rashes, they don’t know what’s wrong.”

Carol’s daughter only found relief by living out of state. After moving to Tennessee, her condition drastically improved.

... Carolyn’s husband suffers from the same rash as Carol. She brought his symptoms to a doctor.

“When I asked him ‘Could this possibly be the water that’s doing this?’ He didn’t deny it,” said French. She thinks doctors are preparing for even more problems.

“They’re putting an increased amount into the medical care around here that we haven’t seen before. It’s an enormous amount of money, specialty areas, cancer. And I believe that they know there’s going to be an increase, or that they’re seeing an increase already” ... more.





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Big Bear Ranch Stands Against Fracking: Photo Essay

By Publisher, December 5, 2012, eatkamloops.org

I received this very touching letter from Gigi and Rainer Krumsiek from Big Bear Ranch that I wanted to share with you. They are very worried about our government issuing long-term water withdrawal licenses for the shale gas industry. Even though they completely control their watershed — unlike most of us — they understand the priceless value of clean water.

'... Those of you who attended our Field Day or visited us otherwise could observe the unique constellation of the 2500 acres of certified organic fields and forests accessible to the animals of Big Bear Ranch. We are situated around the highest point in our surrounding, being the source of four little creeks. That means besides the minuscule chance of air pollution no other contaminants can enter our fields. Another advantage is the absence of public roads across our place.' ... more.

Big Bear Ranch - Cattle herds graze on waist-high pasture during the rich summer months.


Penn West Cleaning Up 300,000 Liters of Produced Water After Pipeline Leak into Canola Crop East of Red Deer

The underground pipe is a 10-cm line that carried 'produced water,' which means it can also carry hydrocarbons and other chemicals.

Penn West is cleaning up a pipeline leak east of Red Deer that spilled up to 300,000 of produced water in a field. Photograph by: Supplied , Edmonton Journal

Penn West Cleaning Up Pipeline Leak East Of Red Deer

By Sarah O'Donnell, Edmonton Journal August 24, 2012

Crews are cleaning up and investigating after a pipeline leak in a canola field east of Red Deer earlier this week.

Up to 300,000 litres of water previously used in an oil well spilled from the line, according to estimates by Penn West Exploration, the Calgary-based company that owns the line.

…Unable to find the problem aerially, employees walked the line and found the leak in a farm field about 10 kilometres east of Red Deer, near Joffre.

… The underground pipe is a 10-cm line that carried “produced water,” which means it can also carry hydrocarbons and other chemicals. ... more.


Toxic Accident Dealt With

... a reliable source stated that the produced water the truck was carrying came from another spill or line break, one that does not appear to have been publicly acknowledged.

By Patrick Keller, May 14 2008, Lakeside Leader  

A portion of West Mitsue Road was closed for approximately one hour while authorities investigated and cleared the scene. According to a news release from Constable John Spaans of the Slave Lake RCMP detachment, a tanker truck carrying produced water lost control and rolled onto its side.

The collision caused a small rupture on the tank “resulting in a minor spill of the chemical.”

... Produced water is a byproduct of the process of extracting oil. Essentially used to displace oil in the ground, the resulting water is considered ‘produced.’ 

As an oil well ages, more produced water is required. A U.S. white paper study of produced water report U.S. wells produce an average of more than seven barrels of water for each barrel of oil. For crude oil wells nearing the end of their productive lives, water can comprise as much as 98 per cent of the material brought to the surface.

Once its usefulness is used up, the produced water is then placed in settling ponds, forced into sand beds for containment or deposited into deep wells.

... Produced water contains elevated concentrations of heavy metals including barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, nickel, silver and zinc. There are also small amounts of radium226 and radium228 and up to several hundred parts per million of volatile dissolved organic material. 

... The collision was the second confirmed industrial accident near Slave Lake that involved dangerous spillage between Apr. 30 to May 8. The other was the Penn West pipeline break that resulted in oil getting into the Otawau River. An unconfirmed report from a reliable source stated that the produced water the truck was carrying came from another spill or line break, one that does not appear to have been publicly acknowledged. ... more.


Germany - Cancer Clusters Near Pipelines Carrying Flowback And Produced Wate (2012)



New Technology Creates New Insurance Issues for Oil And Gas Lease Operators

While fracking has been the cause of some of the blowout increases, producing wells and plugged and abandoned wells are experiencing underground blowouts from the failure of old and corroded casings.

... Another issue that has arisen from fracking is an increase in surface and water table pollution events that  

can result in expensive claims and erode the Control of Well limit rapidly, if not entirely.

AmWINS Group Inc. - Over the last two years, new technology has made unconventional drilling a viable, cost-effective way to extract oil and gas from shale. This new technology is based on advanced horizontal drilling techniques that enable pinpoint accuracy combined with complex multi-stage hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) techniques over significant distances horizontally.

This shift has resulted in new insurance issues that often go unaddressed.

The new fracking technology has advanced to 40-stage fracking operations on 10,000-foot horizontal laterals. This game-changing technology and its impressive results have led to a re-evaluation of the oil and gas resources available in the United States. A Congressional Research Service report released on March 25 of this year indicates that the United States now has the largest hydrocarbon resources in the world.

Drilling activity is up, and the use of this new technology is now common.

This shift to unconventional drilling and heavy multi-stage fracking has created new insurance issues for the industry:

• Increase in blowouts during the completion/fracking stage.
• Increase in blowouts involving communication between multiple wells.
• Increase in blowouts caused by casing/cementing failure.
• Increase in blowouts caused by surface events.

In addition to these blowout trends, we are seeing:

• An increase in blowouts involving producing wells.
• An increase in blowouts involving plugged and abandoned wells.
While fracking has been the cause of some of the blowout increases, producing wells and plugged and abandoned wells are experiencing underground blowouts from the failure of old and corroded casings.  

These underground blowouts can lead to cratering events that are costly and difficult to bring under control. Underground blowouts can be much more expensive to bring under control than surface blowouts, yet many operators do not insure these wells or have high enough limits for them.
Another issue that has arisen from fracking is an increase in surface and water table pollution events that can result in expensive claims and erode the Control of Well limit rapidly, if not entirely.
As a result, many of the blowouts that are now occurring are under-insured. ... more.



Oil Exploration Increasing in Springbank, Bernum Petroleum Holds Open House 

... no blowouts have ever occurred in the province’s Cardium Zone

Oil Exploration Increasing In Springbank

By Derek Clouthier, October 19, 2011, Cochrane Eagle

Calgary oil and gas company, Bernum Petroleum Ltd., held an open house Oct. 11 in an effort to introduce itself to the community of Springbank and field any questions or concerns residents may have regarding the business’s proposal to launch a drilling initiative for sweet oil in the region.

In the days following the open house, Bernum chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Marshall Abbott highlighted what his company is planning for the area, emphasizing several vital aspects of the fracking operation.

“Our initial activity would include drilling two wells,” he explained. “One is north of the river, just north of the highway (Highway 1). That well is planned to be a horizontal well drilled down to about 8,000 feet into a reservoir that is known. The second well would be just east of the airport . . . considerable distance away from any nearby residence. Those two wells are going to test the concept that we believe there’s a significant amount of oil in the reservoir.”

The two wells Bernum are proposing to drill will be in close proximity to existing wells that were drilled in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s but were not as productive in past decades.

... The area Bernum is tapping into is known as the Cardium Formation and has been a major source for oil and gas production.

“This whole Cardium Play has been one of the marquee plays in Alberta for about the last 18 months. The Cardium Zone has been a prolific oil producer for over 50 years.”

When it came to safety concerns for both the Springbank region and environment, Abbott pointed to the fact that no blowouts have ever occurred in the province’s Cardium Zone and that the type of oil being extracted poses little to no danger. ... more.


Frack Communication Blowout Occurs in Province's Cardium Zone

'... something allowed the frack to carry into the same zone, 130 to 140 metres away (underground).'

Alberta Fracking May Have Led To Innisfail Oil Spill

By Lynn Herrmann, January 18, 2012, Digital Journal

Hydraulic fracturing’s impact on the environment received another mark this week when an oil well blowout occurred on a farm located about a kilometer away from a fracking well in Alberta, Canada.

Canada’s Energy Resource Conservation Board was alerted late last Friday about an oil spill in a field, about 25 kilometers west of Innisfail, after a neighboring landowner spotted a pumpjack gushing oil and chemicals onto the ground.

Workers stand in secret frack fluids after a frack communication blowout, Innisfail, Alberta. Photo - Alberta Surface Rights GroupRegulators believe a fracking well located about a kilometer away caused the pumpjack to rupture.

... “We're still not quite sure what happened,” said Scott Ratushny, chief executive for Midway Energy, according to the Herald. “We're still investigating it, but something allowed the frack to carry into the same zone, 130 to 140 metres away (underground).”

Calgary-based Midway Energy, working through Canyon Technical Services, had been finishing a 16-stage frack job at a depth of 1,400 meters when the blowout occurred. Oil, fracking fluid, nitrogen and sand were reportedly involved in the spill.

The spill took place as a result of oil producers working the Cardium oil formation ...

... The accelerated pace of multi-stage fracking in the Alberta area is beginning to draw attention to itself and may impact underground water resources. “We're concerned that these things are going to start damaging aquifers,” said Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Group, the Herald notes.

“If they can hit another well, like this one here, what if they communicate and put all that frac fluid into an aquifer and destroy it.” ... more.


Is 'Communication' a Risk?

... if a fracture hit a natural fault, it could allow contaminants to enter aquifers.

Oh Canada's Become A Home For Record Fracking 

By Nicholas Kusnetz, ProPublica, Dec. 28, 2011

... Increasingly, however, there are reports of something called "communication" -- events in which a fracture travels through the ground and connects two gas wells.

Ken Paulson, chief engineer at the province's Oil and Gas Commission, said these events do not pose a contamination risk. Other experts say their principal impact is to undermine production.

But opponents of expanded shale drilling say instances of communication show that drillers lack a full understanding of what happens when wells are fracked closer together, increasing the risk of contamination. Anthony Ingraffea, an engineering professor at Cornell University, said that if a fracture hit a natural fault, it could allow contaminants to enter aquifers.

Communication has occurred in the U.S. as well: Regulators in Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan and Pennsylvania reported such events to Canadian officials as part of the Energy Resources Conservation Board's regulatory review.

Documents provided to ProPublica show that energy companies have reported 25 cases of communication in British Columbia since 2009. Companies are not required to report such events, so the list isn't comprehensive, Paulson said.

In May 2010, the province's Oil and Gas Commission issued a warning when a drilling company inadvertently shot sand from one fracking job into another well being drilled more than 2,000 feet away.

The advisory said the operator contained the resulting jump in pressure within the well but warned of a "potential safety hazard." When communication occurs, Paulson said, the biggest concern is that an operator could lose control of a well and cause a blowout. ... more.


Alberta Plays Catch-Up On Frack Front

Hill admitted that his agency, charged with developing oil and gas in a manner that is fair and in the public interest, didn't think that experience of B.C.'s shale gas fields or that province's public safety advisory on fracturing would apply to Alberta's shale oil deposits.

But subsequent events proved the agency wrong.

By Andrew Nikiforuk, February 23, 2012, TheTyee.ca

Alberta's energy regulating agency yesterday held a technical briefing for media on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing. The picture that emerged was of a province playing catch-up with continental events that have other governments' regulators and researchers on high alert.

Cal Hill, executive manager of the Regulatory Development Branch of the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) said his agency is now actively investigating four (the ERCB later corrected that figure to five) well blow-outs caused by horizontal multi-stage hydraulic fracking.

... In Alberta, a Talisman horizontal frack job blew fluid into a nearby well in 2009 and that was followed by more explosive incidents in 2010 and 2011 as well as 18 inter-well blow-outs in British Columbia's shale gas fields.

Hill admitted that his agency, charged with developing oil and gas in a manner that is fair and in the public interest, didn't think that experience of B.C.'s shale gas fields or that province's public safety advisory on fracturing would apply to Alberta's shale oil deposits.

But subsequent events proved the agency wrong.

Risks to groundwater cited

The Alberta regulator did not announce an investigation until a January 2011 fracturing incident made global headlines. That remarkable event sent oil and fluid spurting out of an existing well 1.2 km away from the oil shale well being fractured near Innisfail, Alberta.

Since 2008, companies have drilled more than 3,300 so-called horizontal multi-staged fracked wells largely in oil shale formations. In the last 50 years, more than 167,000 oil and gas wells have been vertically fractured open with explosives, diesel fuel and other chemicals including propane and nitrogen. 

Hill said the horizontal multi-staged fracking technology posed two high risks to groundwater. The first involved fluid going up a badly sealed wellbore and then leaking into an aquifer. The improper handling of waste fluids on the surface could also contaminate groundwater.

He omitted any mention of two prominent U.S. studies in Wyoming and Pennsylvania that have strongly associated hydraulic fracturing with extensive methane contamination of groundwater and water wells.

When asked to explain the omission, Hill said that U.S. EPA Pavillion study was still under review and that Pennsylvania Duke University study suggested that bad well bore casing may be the issue.

... Hill admitted that if oil and gas wells are not properly cased and cemented, that natural gas can leak from wellbores into groundwater. He called well bore integrity perhaps the most critical issue associated with hydraulic fracturing.

However three other board staff at the meeting could not provide details on well auditing programs or even what percentage of Alberta's 176,211 producing wells were actively monitored for leaks.

In recent years, the ERCB has systematically embraced self-regulation by placing a greater responsibility on the oil and gas industry for reporting, testing and eliminating wellbore casing leaks and gas migration problems. ... more.


Update: Fracking Blamed In Well Blowout, ERCB Assigns Fault To Midway Energy But No Enforcement Ordered

Barter added an agency committee was struck to keep track of incidents of communication between wells and it found 21 over the past year, of which five resulted in releases at the surface.

Some of those incidents may result in enforcement actions.

By Dan Healing, December 12, 2012, Calgary Herald

An investigation into a well blowout near Innisfail last January that spewed oily liquid over a farm field concludes it was the fault of a company fracking a neighbouring well.

However, no enforcement order is contemplated because the actions of the company were not in violation of Energy Resources Conservation Board regulations at the time.

In a report released Wednesday, the ERCB notes that Midway Energy Ltd.’s well completion operations resulted in an increase in pressure in a nearby Wild Stream Exploration Inc. well, causing a release of about 500 barrels of fracturing and formation fluid to surface at the wellhead.

It says “communication” between the wells occurred within the same formation about 1,850 metres below the surface and adds the well bores were about 129 metres apart at their closest point.

“There’s no enforcement action,” said ERCB spokesman Darin Barter. “At the time, the ERCB didn’t have specific regulations in place that would have prevented this inter-well bore communication from occurring.”

He added the agency responded quickly, however, issuing a bulletin within 10 days that clarified standards expected of companies using fracking, where water, sand and other substances are injected under pressure to break up tight formations and allow trapped oil and gas to flow.

Barter added an agency committee was struck to keep track of incidents of communication between wells and it found 21 over the past year, of which five resulted in releases at the surface. Some of those incidents may result in enforcement actions.

... In a news release, Alberta NDP environment critic Rachel Notley criticized the government.

“The province’s failure to set clear minimum safety standards for fracking activity, combined with its willingness to let industry police itself, means that we can expect more of these serious incidences in the future,” she said.

The ERCB investigation concluded that Midway and Wild Stream appropriately managed the incident.

Last week, the ERCB released a draft directive designed to address sub-surface issues related to hydraulic fracturing and invited comment.

Notley said the proposed standards are flexible and difficult to enforce, charging that the government “panders to industry” by letting them participate in drafting the directive.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has issued voluntary fracking guidelines for producers across Canada ... more.



October 19, 2011 The Cochrane Eagle

'We understand the residents' concerns ... about the unsightliness of a pump jack and the possible precedent it sets for an industrial pathway. The last thing we want to do is litter the landscape with oil and gas activity ... that's not our intent.'

'... I think I can safely say the ERCB (Energy Resources Conservation Board) has been quoted as saying that there's never been an incident of a well being fracked in Alberta where it impacted water wells ... or otherwise caused any surface disturbance.' ... more.

 Marshall Abbott, CEO Bernum Petroleum 


This is not an award-winning, wine-producing vineyard in France.  It's just food land in Rocky View County, Alberta Canada


Just food land ... 


October 19, 2011 The Cochrane Eagle

“From what we know,” added Pickup “there has been no study on the cumulative effects of these oil wells being placed so close together.”

... Pickup described the area near Big Hill Springs Provincial Park as just the beginning of what’s coming. “It is ugly.”

Highway 567 and 34 is what Pickup calls ‘frack ally.’ “They’re putting up rigs beside houses; they’re putting in a six multi-well pad. We are so saturated it’s absolutely frightening.

“With the federal government now saying that they are going to study hydraulic fracturing…they know what’s happening throughout the rest of the world. Put a moratorium on it now.”

Pickup resides in one of these areas she is so concerned about. Her house is near a gas pipeline and an oil company told her that there would be no need to build an incinerator in the vicinity; a promise that she has now been told cannot be kept. ... more.




Spatial Intensity - (PSE) Interview - Tony Ingraffea, PhD, PE 

It's going to be hellacious. The industry knows it.

The single most important aspect of unconventional gas development from shale, that hardly anybody gets, and I'm talking about the general public, policy makers, even regulators ... the only entities that get it are the operators and a few individuals like myself, who really understand the nexus between geology, geochemistry, engineering, science and technology, and let me tell you what that issue is - it's called spatial intensity.

As you know, people are a bit upset about how things have progressed in a place like Pennsylvania, with Marcellus shale. What people don't understand, yet, is that we haven't even started. Pennsylvania has been developed for shale gas since 2007, and in that period of time there have been roughly five thousand five hundred wells drilled, and people think, well that's a lot, but of those five thousand five hundred wells that have been drilled, only about half have been fracked and that half that's been fracked constitute about two percent ... two percent of the eventual so called build-out of Pennsylvania.

So someone could fly over all of the areas of Pennsylvania right now that have been developed for the Marcellus and say; "Well that ain't so bad ... that's not like mountain top removal in West Virginia."  Well not yet. Only about two percent of the wells that are going to be fracked, have been fracked. 

Yet if we look at the consequences already, the number of individual private water wells that have already been contaminated, the number of health incidences that have occurred, the number of spills that have occurred, the number of truck accidents that have occurred. It's pretty simple now to start forecasting, prognosing, crystal ball-gazing and say; "What's it going to be like ...  if it's like this with two percent ... what's it going to be like at ten percent? What's it going to be like at twenty percent?"  

It's going to be hellacious. The industry knows it. ... more at the above video.


'The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades' ... And Maybe A Respirator

 ERCB Embraces Industry's 'Spatial Intensity' 

Regulating Unconventional Oil and Gas in Alberta: A Discussion Paper

By the ERCB, released December 17, 2012

Night Frack. December 2012, Mountain View County, Alberta… unlike conventional hydrocarbon pools, unconventional resource development requires a greater scale of  development and intensity of infrastructure (wells, roads, and other facilities) to be economical.

This difference, and others, is driving the ERCB’s work to introduce a new regulatory framework for the development of unconventional resources.

 … As with all energy regulation, this new framework aims to…avoid imposing unnecessary regulatory burden on industry.    

… The ERCB will introduce a new pad approval process to facilitate placing multiple wells and their associated facilities on one pad. The new process will combine approval for activities such as drilling and completing multiple wells and installing related production equipment on a pad into one approval.    

Pad approvals could be used anywhere in the province.    

… most unconventional resource development requires a level of infrastructure and activity that may increase effects on water, air, and land as well as conflicts with other surface land uses. Increases in vehicle traffic, noise, dust, emissions, and light pollution are common ….      

The ERCB’s existing regulatory requirements and processes will remain in effect unless modified for a specific play.

… The regulatory approaches used could range from highly prescriptive regulatory requirements that dictate how an activity must be conducted to performance-based regulations that set the regulatory outcomes to be achieved and allow the regulated entity to determine how best to achieve them.    

Some aspects of new emerging resource development can benefit from a performance-based approach, which provides flexibility and encourages technological advancement and innovation.    

… The ERCB’s regulatory approach will also consider industry’s success in developing industry recommended practices (IRPs) to manage the effects of unconventional resource development, such as the Guiding Principles for Hydraulic Fracturing published by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).    

If the ERCB is satisfied that industry-developed IRPs can be successful in achieving outcomes, commitment to those IRPs by operators within a play can form a part of the overall regulatory process for that play. ... much more here. 




October 19, 2011 The Cochrane Eagle

Abbott commended the work of the ERCB in policing the industry, making certain rules are followed, while at the same time taking the concerns of landowners into consideration.

The ERCB will monitor Bernum on a daily basis during the course of its Springbank undertaking. ... more.


ERCB ST57 Reports The Number of Drilling Operation Inspections That Are Conducted Annually.

The drilling operation inspection ratio has gone down from 0.36 to 0.03 a 1200% drop in a 20 year period.

Source: Alberta Surface Rights Group

Those drilling inspections have gone down from 1800 – 1900 per year in the 1985-1990 period when about 4000 to 6000 wells were drilled to only 400 – 500 inspections per year in 2006-2010 when an average of 15,000 wells per year are drilled. The drilling operation inspection ratio has gone down from 0.36 to 0.03 a 1200% drop in a 20 year period.

In addition it appears that drilling operation inspections (ERCB Directive 036 Drilling Blowout Prevention Requirements and Procedures) do not address compliance or enforcement of surface casing design and setting depth or production casing design or any casing cementing.

ERCB ST57 also reports the number of Well Site Inspections that are conducted annually and those inspections have gone down from an average of 12,000 per year in the 1985 - 1990 period, to an average of 7,800 per year in the 2006 – 2010 period. Since the non abandoned well population has increased from 90,000 in 1990 to 250,000 in 2010 the inspection ratio has declined from 0.13 to 0.03 a 430% decline.

The well site inspections conducted by the ERCB inspectors are usually visual inspections and rarely except when a gas migration or surface casing vent problem are discovered do the inspection staff look into whether the casing and cementing of the well was adequate.

ERCB ST57 states that one of the most common reasons for low risk noncompliance in well site inspections was surface casing venting however there is no mention of why there was venting, whether it was due to inadequate casing cementing or another reason.

ERCB ST57 also states that one of the most common high risk noncompliant voluntary self-disclosures by industry regarding well sites is “failure to report a known surface casing vent flow or gas migration problem”. It is odd that surface casing venting is a low risk noncompliance for an ERCB inspection but a high risk noncompliance for an industry voluntary self-disclosure. There are no statistics or details given to identify whether there is an increasing problem with surface casing vent flows and what is being done to fix them and to prevent the problem on future wells. ... more.


EPA Agreement with Oil Production Companies Ensures Safe Drinking Water For Poplar, Montana

Over the past several years, groundwater sampling results indicate that contamination related to production in the East Poplar oilfield has reached the City of Poplar’s water supply.

The source of this contamination is produced brine, highly saline wastewater containing trace metals, inorganic salt concentrations, and volatile organic compounds. EPA estimates that more than 40 million gallons of brine entered the drinking water aquifer over the span of five decades. The direction of the brine plume movement is generally toward the City of Poplar. 

Release Date: 03/26/2012

Contact Information: Sarah Roberts, 303-312-7056; Richard Mylott, 303-312-6654

Agreement with Murphy, Pioneer and Samson requires continued groundwater monitoring and contingencies for treatment or alternate supply

(Denver, Colorado—March 26, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with three oil production companies operating on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana requiring the companies to address groundwater contamination threatening the City of Poplar’s public water supply system. 

The agreement with Murphy Exploration & Production Co. (Murphy), Pioneer Natural Resources USA, Inc. (Pioneer), and SGH Enterprises, Inc. (Samson) requires the companies to continue to monitor the City of Poplar’s public water supply monthly and provide treatment or an alternate drinking water source if water quality degrades to a point that presents a public health risk. These requirements will remain in effect until a new and safe source of drinking water is secured by the City of Poplar. The agreement also requires the companies to pay $320,000 to the City to reimburse costs related to water infrastructure and relocating water wells.

The administrative order, issued under the Safe Drinking Water Act, replaces an emergency order issued by EPA in December 2010. The companies had previously appealed this order in federal court, which referred the case to a mediation process. The agreement announced today is a result of that process.

“Murphy, Pioneer and Samson have made a commitment to ensure that the City of Poplar’s taps remain safe,” said Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver. “The companies will continue to monitor water quality and will take all actions necessary to maintain an uninterrupted supply of safe water to residents.” 

Over the past several years, groundwater sampling results indicate that contamination related to production in the East Poplar oilfield has reached the City of Poplar’s water supply. 

The source of this contamination is produced brine, highly saline wastewater containing trace metals, inorganic salt concentrations, and volatile organic compounds. EPA estimates that more than 40 million gallons of brine entered the drinking water aquifer over the span of five decades. The direction of the brine plume movement is generally toward the City of Poplar. 

While treated water from the City of Poplar’s water system is currently safe to drink, monthly samples collected by the oil companies indicate an upward trend in total dissolved solids, chloride and sodium. Under the order announced today, EPA and the companies have identified trigger values that will allow time for action before the public water supply presents any health risks. If these values are met, the companies will take immediate steps to secure additional treatment or provide alternative water to ensure contamination levels are below human health thresholds. 

A long-term alternative water source for the City of Poplar is currently being developed through construction of a pipeline from the Missouri River. The City also has plans to relocate its water wells to secure a back-up supply. These efforts are expected to be completed as early as this year.

EPA, the State of Montana, the Fort Peck Tribes, the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies have been aware of groundwater contamination in the East Poplar oil field for several decades. Various studies have been done in the area, and the nature, extent and movement of the plumes are relatively well known. EPA has addressed past contamination through four Safe Drinking Water Act orders issued to production companies between 1999 and 2004. Murphy, Pioneer and Samson are, directly or through corporate acquisition, historic oil producers in the East Poplar oil field. 

Poplar is the seat of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. The Poplar-area public water system, the Fort Peck Tribe Water Resource, serves approximately 3,000 people, including tribal and non-tribal households.

... A long-term alternative water source for the City of Poplar is currently being developed through construction of a pipeline from the Missouri River.


Aquifer destroyed, dangerous and unusable?  Need an alternative?   Find a river ...


Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers

With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.

... Industry officials say they are not concerned.

By IAN URBINA - New York Times Drilling Down Series

Published: February 26, 2011 

... A review by The Times of more than 30,000 pages of federal, state and company records relating to more than 200 gas wells in Pennsylvania, 40 in West Virginia and 20 public and private wastewater treatment plants offers a fuller picture of the wastewater such wells produce and the threat it poses.

Most of the information was drawn from drilling reports from the last three years, obtained by visiting regional offices throughout Pennsylvania, and from documentsor databases provided by state and federal regulators in response to records requests.

Among The Times’s findings:

More than 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater was produced by Pennsylvania wells over the past three years, far more than has been previously disclosed. Most of this water — enough to cover Manhattan in three inches — was sent to treatment plants not equipped to remove many of the toxic materials in drilling waste.

At least 12 sewage treatment plants in three states accepted gas industry wastewater and discharged waste that was only partly treated into rivers, lakes and streams.

Of more than 179 wells producing wastewater with high levels of radiation, at least 116 reported levels of radium or other radioactive materials 100 times as high as the levels set by federal drinking-water standards. At least 15 wells produced wastewater carrying more than 1,000 times the amount of radioactive elements considered acceptable.

Results came from field surveys conducted by state and federal regulators, year-end reports filed by drilling companies and state-ordered tests of some public treatment plants. Most of the tests measured drilling wastewater for radium or for “gross alpha” radiation, which typically comes from radium, uranium and other elements.

Industry officials say they are not concerned.

“These low levels of radioactivity pose no threat to the public or worker safety and are more a public perception issue than a real health threat,” said James E. Grey, chief operating officer of Triana Energy. ... more.


Alberta Residents Raise Red Deer River Oil Spill Cleanup Concerns

Months later, the oil looks like its gone — but a quick scratch of the surface reveals a strong odour.

"I can pick up here a handful of sand and you can smell the hydrocarbons in it," said Johnston.

CBC News, Aug 27, 2012

Landowners near Sundre, Alta., say they are being kept in the dark by the oil company responsible for cleaning up a spill on their property.

Gord Johnston says while he's pleased Plains Midstream Canada is cleaning up the 3,000 barrels of light sour crude that spilled in the area in June, he's frustrated with the way its being done.

His property sits on the banks of the Red Deer River and was completely covered in oil on June 7.

"I want to know what's going on here, why they're doing it and what they're putting into the land," he said.

Johnston has worked in the oil and gas industry and dealt with landowners — he knows there are protocols to follow, but he says crews from Plains Midstream Canada have been ripping through his land and hauling equipment across it without his permission.

He said the company has not arranged a landowner agreement with him.

"It's not that we don't want this cleaned up, but I want to be aware," he said. "I want to see the industry standards. I want to see what they are doing."

Months later, the oil looks like its gone — but a quick scratch of the surface reveals a strong odour.

"I can pick up here a handful of sand and you can smell the hydrocarbons in it," said Johnston.

Water well concerns

Bonnie Johnston would like more information on the oil spill cleanup efforts on her land near Sundre, Alta. (CBC)

And his wife, Bonnie Johnston, fears the worst.

"I don't know when it will be in our water, and in a short time they're not going to test it anymore, so if it flows into our water well when will we know its there," she said.

Worried about that odour — as well as water and ground contamination — the Johnstons haven't been staying at their home, which has been in the family for generations.

Plains Midstream put them up in a hotel for a while, but it was only temporary.

"They told me they were tired of me holidaying on their dime and to get out," said Gord.

That was around July 15 after the company told him his property had been cleaned up, but crews have returned since then. ... more.



Source: Slide from The Great Getaway: Secrets of a Frac Cover-Up presentation by Jessica Ernst at Mount Royal University, Calgary, October 12, 2012 - Photo by Glenn Norman

Treatment Plants Ineffective In Hydrocarbon Removal

... dissolved particles of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes poured over the Dixon Dam and into the reservoir below.

... Meanwhile, reclamation workers are still finding oil seeping at sites where they have been digging

By Drew A. Penner, November 6, 2012, Mountain View Gazette

When oil particles from the June Plains Midstream pipeline rupture near Sundre floated downstream past containment booms along Gleniffer Lake, water treatment plants proved ineffective at removing any of the petroleum hydrocarbon products detected.

While these particles were only found in trace amounts at the drinking water facilities, neither the Anthony Henday nor Red Deer plants showed much change between levels in raw intake water and post-treatment samples.

“It was a bit of a wake-up call,” said Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Limnologist Chris Teichreb. “The plants are effective at removing a lot of other stuff but they’re not effective at removing hydrocarbons.”

After about 475,000 litres of oil flowed out of a 12-inch diameter segment of the Rangeland South Pipeline system buried beneath Jackson Creek, a tributary of the Red Deer River, visible crude was by and large contained by spill response crews. But dissolved particles of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes poured over the Dixon Dam and into the reservoir below.

“It was a very short term that we saw it exceed those guidelines,” he said.

Toluene, which can affect the human nervous system, the kidneys, the liver, and the heart, causing unsteadiness and tingling in fingers, to unconsciousness and death, was found within the reservoir above acceptable guidelines, according to a presentation given by Teichreb at the Red Deer Watershed Alliance at Olds College Oct. 25.

Further upstream benzene, which increases the risk of cancer and other illnesses, was temporarily found at levels exceeding drinking water standards.

“We’re currently looking at that and discussing with the drinking water plants what we need to do in terms of contingency plans for stuff like this in the future,” Teichreb said.

Twice-daily monitoring at the treatment facilities did not reveal unsafe hydrocarbon levels, he said. Shutting down the Anthony Henday and Red Deer plants would have affected 150,000 people.

Alberta Environment is studying potential long-term effects of the spill on the entire ecosystem. Energy Minister Ken Hughes told the Canadian Press the public will be invited to participate in a provincial pipeline review launched in the wake of this Plains Midstream spill, once Calgary-based Group 10 Engineering completes its technical review by the end of December.

Meanwhile, reclamation workers are still finding oil seeping at sites where they have been digging, according to the Alberta Surface Rights group. On Nov. 14 they will hold a meeting at the James River Community Hall north of Sundre to discuss contamination, compensation and hydraulic fracturing. ... more.


Letter From A Concerned Citizen

Historically the number of ERCB inspections/investigations has decreased over the past 20 years while the well/pipeline/facility infrastructure has increased

Source: Alberta Surface Rights Group

Construction starts on a new pipeline. Rocky View County, Alberta... The ERCB report in 1990 indicated that there were 3160 pipeline inspections and the pipeline inventory was 145,073 kilometres (2.18% ratio). In 2000 there were 1461 pipeline inspections on 274,108 kilometres (0.53% ratio) and in 2009 there were only 1602 pipeline inspections on 392,608 kilometres, a significant drop to 0.4% ratio. Would these significantly decreasing inspection statistics give you confidence that the ERCB was ensuring that pipelines were being operated and maintained in accordance with the regulations?

The ERCB website says there are currently 70 inspection staff, when I worked for them back in the early 1980's there were 110 field staff and 75 of them were inspectors and we conducted 25,000 total inspections a year and the province only had about 100,000 wells, 10,000 facilities, and 120,000 kilometres of pipeline back then. ... more.


2011 - New pipeline. Rocky View County, Alberta Canada


 "Nothing Specific" Has Been Set Aside For Additional Monitoring

... Despite a major increase in horizontal multi-stage fracking in oil shale formations (some 3,300 wells since 2008), the province has not allotted more money for earthquake, groundwater, gas migration or wellbore integrity monitoring. (The Alberta Geological Survey recently beefed up seismic monitoring after dozens of earthquakes a decade in the province turned into hundreds after 1985.)

"Nothing specific" has been set aside for additional monitoring admitted Hill. ... more.




Natural Gas: The Rest Of The Story - Dr. Theo Colborn



Workers Beware - Deadly Gas Industry Coverup Revealed by NC5

By John Dzenitis, August 5, 2011, KREX News Room

Before 42-year-old Jose Lara of Rifle died, he recorded a six-hour deposition detailing his work in the natural gas industry.

“If I would have known the damage those tanks would do to me, I would never have cleaned them,” an emotional Lara said through a Spanish translator in front of a camera and room full of attorneys.

Dying from pancreatic and liver cancer, Lara described his job with Rain for Rent, a California-based company with a branch in Rifle.

His job was to power-wash waste water tanks for numerous natural gas drilling companies. For years, Lara said he was not supplied with a respirator, protective gear, or any warning of what he could be exposed to.

“The chemicals, the smell was so bad,” Lara said. “Once I got out, I couldn’t stop throwing up. I couldn’t even talk.”

Lara said he had no idea what he was being exposed to.

“[Rain for Rent] always talked about safety,” Lara said. “But they never told me what was in those tanks.”

Lara passed away three months after recording his deposition. OSHA would later cite and fine Rain for Rent with nine violations, six of them serious, for exposing Lara to a cyanide-like gas called hydrogen sulfide. The citation claim the company didn't properly protect, warn, and educate Lara about what he was being exposed to.
Both the industry and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state’s agency meant to protect public health and regulate oil and gas, have denied the existence of high levels of hydrogen sulfide in Colorado.
In 1997, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment wanted to monitor for hydrogen sulfide at oil and gas facilities after they were designated as confirmed sources of the deadly gas by the EPA.

The COGCC stepped in and told them not to, claiming there were no elevated levels in the state. The public health department listened, and tells us they haven’t pursued any monitoring of hydrogen sulfide at oil and gas facilities since.

In 2010, Ryan Beaver’s job was to monitor for hydrogen sulfide in the same kinds of tanks.

“I’ve seen the levels with my own eyes and I know what that stuff can do,” Beaver said.
Beaver worked for On-Site Safety, a company contracted by Noble Energy in De Beque, Colorado. Outfitted with a monitoring device and gas mask, Beaver found multiple dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide in just four months.

"We would open the lid, 'roll the tank,' and put our monitors inside," Beaver said.
Beaver found levels of hydrogen sulfide exceeding 2,000 parts per million, which is triple the lethal level. Beaver says he wasn't allowed to tell anyone, other than his supervisors, what the levels were.
“700 ppm will knock you out and kill you with the second breath,” Beaver said. “I was getting three times that. It’s a very well-kept secret.”

One time, while workers were on site, Beaver's monitoring device read a level so high it maxed out his device.
"It just said 'error, error,' Beaver said. "I couldn't get anyone's attention, so I cracked my gas mask and yelled as loud as I could."

In the effort, Beaver was stricken with a near-lethal dose of hydrogen sulfide.

"My right eye felt like it was about to explode it hurt so bad," Beaver said. "I had a migraine for a week and a half, and I lost my voice for three days."
The attack happened just one day before Lara recorded his deposition.
The dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide Beaver recorded in four months were never reported to the county or state, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission says.
Beaver says he would enter the numbers from his field log book into a master log book with On-Site Safety, which presumably went to Noble Energy.
The industry has also discounted and fought air studies conducted in Western Colorado, some which turned up hydrogen sulfide readings.

“They won’t let testing in, and they won’t release what results they already have,” Beaver said. “Of course they can say it’s not true.”
After NewsChannel 5's investigation, Noble Energy came forward and admitted they've seen hydrogen sulfide at a majority of their sites in Western Colorado.



NAL Resources Holds Local Open House

'There is nothing toxic or something people should be worried about.'

By Enrique Massot, May 24, 2011, Cochrane Eagle

A representative of an energy resource company says extracting oil and gas from the Lochend area in northwest Rocky View should proceed smoothly, in a spirit of co-operation with the area landowners.

“We hope to educate people about what we do here,” said Marlon McDougall, chief operating officer with NAL Resources.

The company, which has already drilled five wells, held a well-attended open house at Weedon Hall May 18. McDougall said NAL takes about 15 days to drill and another 15 days to complete a well, leaving behind an electrically-operated pump jack that has a small footprint.

“We want to locate the wells as far from open view as possible,” said McDougall. “We are upfront to negotiate location with people.”

... Not all operations, however, have gone totally according to plans, he admitted.

'We are not perfect — some of our operations have not gone as expected,' he said. 'However, there have not been major issues.'

However, McDougall said he expects an open house, such as the one on May 18, will open a more active dialogue allowing the company to learn about any concerns from residents.

NAL Resources, along with other companies operating in the area, use a technique called hydraulic fracturing to help release oil tightly held in rock formations deep underground. The composition of fluids injected under high pressure cannot be revealed because of proprietor confidentiality of the companies manufacturing the fluids, McDougall said.

However, he added, 'There is nothing toxic or something people should be worried about.'

McDougall said the company is moving towards using water to exclusively fracture the rocks.

To that end, NAL wants to move away from using fresh water, and begin using saline water extracted from operations in other areas. ... more.


'Excess' Stormwater to be Pumped Out, Laced with Secret Chemicals, and Injected into Rocky View County's Future

'It's a win-win situation'

By: Rachel Maclean - August 2, 2011, Cochrane Eagle
Areas in Rocky View drowning in excess stormwater will soon get some help from one company drilling for oil in the area.
Rocky View County has received Alberta Environment approval to let NAL Resources pump 18,330 cubic metres of excess stormwater to be used in oil production.

The idea came from county Coun. Paul McLean.

'It’s a win-win situation,' he said.

... NAL spokesperson Lance Berg said the water will be used to help drill three wells and frack five wells in the Lochend area.
Berg said roughly 1,500-2,000 cubic metres of water will be used for each frack and 800 cubic metres for each drill.

Berg has been in meetings with other oil companies to see if the idea can be expanded and credits Mclean for his work.  

NAL has been using locally sourced water since its operations started up in 2009, including water from Cochrane’s water treatment plant. ... more.

New Study Predicts Frack Fluids Can Migrate to Aquifers Within Years

Both scientists agreed that direct evidence of fluid migration is needed, but little sampling has been done to analyze where fracking fluids go after being injected underground.

By Abrahm Lustgarten, May 1, 2012, ProPublica
Scientists have theorized that impermeable layers of rock would keep the fluid, which contains benzene and other dangerous chemicals, safely locked nearly a mile below water supplies. This view of the earth’s underground geology is a cornerstone of the industry’s argument that fracking poses minimal threats to the environment.
But the study, using computer modeling, concluded that natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus, exacerbated by the effects of fracking itself, could allow chemicals to reach the surface in as little as “just a few years.”
“Simply put, [the rock layers] are not impermeable,” said the study’s author, Tom Myers, an independent hydrogeologist whose clients include [2] the federal government and environmental groups.
“The Marcellus shale is being fracked into a very high permeability,” he said. “Fluids could move from most any injection process.”
… The models predict that fracking will dramatically speed up the movement of chemicals injected into the ground. Fluids traveled distances within 100 years that would take tens of thousands of years under natural conditions. And when the models factored in the Marcellus’ natural faults and fractures, fluids could move 10 times as fast as that.
Where man-made fractures intersect with natural faults, or break out of the Marcellus layer into the stone layer above it, the study found, “contaminants could reach the surface areas in tens of years, or less.”
The study also concluded that the force that fracking exerts does not immediately let up when the process ends. It can take nearly a year to ease.
As a result, chemicals left underground are still being pushed away from the drill site long after drilling is finished. It can take five or six years before the natural balance of pressure in the underground system is fully restored, the study found.
Myers’ research focused exclusively on the Marcellus, but he said his findings may have broader relevance. Many regions where oil and gas is being drilled have more permeable underground environments than the one he analyzed, he said. ... more.

Speaking Of Aquifers ... 

Poisoning the Well: How The Feds Let Industry Pollute The Nation’s Underground Water Supply

To the resource industries, aquifer exemptions are essential. Oil and gas drilling waste has to go somewhere ...

A view of the dry bed of the E.V. Spence Reservoir in Robert Lee, Texas, in October 2011. Records show that environmental officials have granted more than 50 aquifer exemptions for waste disposal and uranium mining in the drought-stricken state. (Calle Richmond/Reuters)

By Abrahm Lustgarten, December 11, 2012, ProPublica

Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation's drinking water.

In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.

EPA records show that portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers have been written off because exemptions have allowed them to be used as dumping grounds.

"You are sacrificing these aquifers," said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado and a member of a National Science Foundation team studying the effects of energy development on the environment. "By definition, you are putting pollution into them. ... If you are looking 50 to 100 years down the road, this is not a good way to go."

As part of an investigation into the threat to water supplies from underground injection of waste, ProPublica set out to identify which aquifers have been polluted.

We found the EPA has not even kept track of exactly how many exemptions it has issued, where they are, or whom they might affect.

What records the agency was able to supply under the Freedom of Information Act show that exemptions are often issued in apparent conflict with the EPA's mandate to protect waters that may be used for drinking.

Though hundreds of exemptions are for lower-quality water of questionable use, many allow grantees to contaminate water so pure it would barely need filtration, or that is treatable using modern technology.

The EPA is only supposed to issue exemptions if aquifers are too remote, too dirty, or too deep to supply affordable drinking water. Applicants must persuade the government that the water is not being used as drinking water and that it never will be.

Sometimes, however, the agency has issued permits for portions of reservoirs that are in use, assuming contaminants will stay within the finite area exempted.

In Wyoming, people are drawing on the same water source for drinking, irrigation and livestock that, about a mile away, is being fouled with federal permission. In Texas, EPA officials are evaluating an exemption for a uranium mine — already approved by the state — even though numerous homes draw water from just outside the underground boundaries outlined in the mining company's application.

The EPA declined repeated requests for interviews for this story, but sent a written response saying exemptions have been issued responsibly, under a process that ensures contaminants remain confined.

"Aquifer Exemptions identify those waters that do not currently serve as a source of drinking water and will not serve as a source of drinking water in the future and, thus, do not need to be protected," an EPA spokesperson wrote in an email statement. "The process of exempting aquifers includes steps that minimize the possibility that future drinking water supplies are endangered."

Yet EPA officials say the agency has quietly assembled an unofficial internal task force to re-evaluate its aquifer exemption policies. The agency's spokesperson declined to give details on the group's work, but insiders say it is attempting to inventory exemptions and to determine whether aquifers should go unprotected in the future, with the value of water rising along with demand for exemptions closer to areas where people live.

Advances in geological sciences have deepened regulators' concerns about exemptions, challenging the notion that waste injected underground will stay inside the tightly drawn boundaries of the exempted areas.

"What they don't often consider is whether that waste will flow outside that zone of influence over time, and there is no doubt that it will," said Mike Wireman, a senior hydrologist with the EPA who has worked with the World Bank on global water supply issues. "Over decades, that water could discharge into a stream. It could seep into a well. If you are a rancher out there and you want to put a well in, it's difficult to find out if there is an exempted aquifer underneath your property."

Aquifer exemptions are a little-known aspect of the government's Underground Injection Control program, which is designed to protect water supplies from the underground disposal of waste.

The Safe Drinking Water Act explicitly prohibits injection into a source of drinking water, and requires precautions to ensure that oil and gas and disposal wells that run through them are carefully engineered not to leak.

Areas covered by exemptions are stripped of some of these protections, however. Waste can be discarded into them freely, and wells that run through them need not meet all standards used to prevent pollution. In many cases, no water monitoring or long-term study is required.

The recent surge in domestic drilling and rush for uranium has brought a spike in exemption applications, as well as political pressure not to block or delay them, EPA officials told ProPublica.

"The energy policy in the U.S is keeping this from happening because right now nobody — nobody — wants to interfere with the development of oil and gas or uranium," said a senior EPA employee who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. "The political pressure is huge not to slow that down."

Many of the exemption permits, records show, have been issued in regions where water is needed most and where intense political debates are underway to decide how to fairly allocate limited water resources.

In drought-stricken Texas, communities are looking to treat brackish aquifers beneath the surface because they have run out of better options and several cities, including San Antonio and El Paso, are considering whether to build new desalinization plants for as much as $100 million apiece.

And yet environmental officials have granted more than 50 exemptions for waste disposal and uranium mining in Texas, records show. The most recent was issued in September.

The Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates oil and gas drilling, said it issued additional exemptions, covering large swaths of aquifers underlying the state, when it brought its rules into compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 1982. This was in large part because officials viewed them as oil reservoirs and thought they were already contaminated. But it is unclear where, and how extensive, those exemptions are.

EPA "Region VI received a road map — yes, the kind they used to give free at gas stations — with the aquifers delineated, with no detail on depth," said Mario Salazar, a former EPA project engineer who worked with the underground injection program for 25 years and oversaw the approval of Texas' program, in an email.

In California, where nearly half of the nation's fruits and vegetables are grown with water from as far away as the Colorado River, the perennially cash-strapped state's governor is proposing to spend $14 billion to divert more of the Sacramento River from the north to the south. Near Bakersfield, a private project is underway to build a water bank, essentially an artificial aquifer.

Still, more than 100 exemptions for natural aquifers have been granted in California, some to dispose of drilling and fracking waste in the state's driest parts. Though most date back to the 1980s, the most recent exemption was approved in 2009 in Kern County, an agricultural heartland that is the epicenter of some of the state's most volatile rivalries over water.

The balance is even more delicate in Colorado. Growth in the Denver metro area has been stubbornly restrained not by available land, but by the limits of aquifers that have been drawn down by as much as 300 vertical feet. Much of Eastern Colorado's water has long been piped underneath the Continental Divide and, until recently, the region was mulling a $3 billion plan to build a pipeline to bring water hundreds of miles from western Wyoming.

Along with Wyoming, Montana and Utah, however, Colorado has sacrificed more of its aquifer resources than any other part of the country.

More than 1,100 aquifer exemptions have been approved by the EPA's Rocky Mountain regional office, according to a list the agency provided to ProPublica. Many of them are relatively shallow and some are in the same geologic formations containing aquifers relied on by Denver metro residents, though the boundaries are several hundred miles away. More than a dozen exemptions are in waters that might not even need to be treated in order to drink.

"It's short-sighted," said Tom Curtis, the deputy executive director of the American Water Works Association, an international non-governmental drinking water organization. "It's something that future generations may question."

To the resource industries, aquifer exemptions are essential. Oil and gas drilling waste has to go somewhere and in certain parts of the country, there are few alternatives to injecting it into porous rock that also contains water, drilling companies say. In many places, the same layers of rock that contain oil or gas also contain water, and that water is likely to already contain pollutants such as benzene from the natural hydrocarbons within it. ... more.

... Several residents want to know where these companies get the millions of gallons of water they use for their ‘fracking’ activities.

By Derek Clouthier, August 1, 2012, The Cochrane Eagle
The average human being can survive without water for approximately three days under normal conditions, which is why it’s understandable that many want to ensure that our H2O supply is not only safe but plentiful.
Water for sale sign as seen in a field from Hwy 22 North of Cochrane, Alberta - *We have blocked out last digits of phone number and plate number, as sign has now been removed or moved.With a slew of oil and gas companies operating in the Cochrane area, many just to the north of town in what is called the Cardium formation – which is believed to have approximately 84 million cubic metres of untapped oil along with 58 million cubic metres of remaining gas – several residents want to know where these companies get the millions of gallons of water they use for their ‘fracking’ activities.
Cochrane Lake and Dogpound Creek are two approved sources of water for energy companies working in the area to remove from.
These two bodies of water, according to public affairs officer for Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (the governing body tasked with reviewing applications for water extraction purposes) Carrie Sancartier, are experiencing ‘a lot of activity.’
“There are five companies that have temporary diversion licences for hydraulic fracturing purposes in 2012,” said Sancartier. “All temporary licences will expire before the end of September.”
Sancartier said that each company holding a permit to extract water from Cochrane Lake and/or Dogpound Creek is authorized to take anywhere from 3,500-10,000 cubic metres of water during the term of their licence, and that permits can be issued for temporary diversions for a maximum of one year, or for a longer period of time depending on the project type.
... The other source of water for energy companies conducting fracking operations is Cochrane’s bulk water station.
... Though amounts can vary, the approximate quantity of water necessary to frack a bore well is anywhere from 4,542-13,250 cubic metres of potable water.
The reason companies say they require clean, potable water as the base for the fluid they use to fracture the rock is because non-potable water does not react with several of the additives they add to the water; additives such as gelling agents, acetic acid, silica sand and carbon dioxide.
Five companies with fracking operations in the Cochrane area form the Lochend Industry Producers Group (LIPG), and consist of Equal Energy, NAL Resources, PetroBakken Energy, Tamarack Valley Energy and TriOil Resources. ... more.

Sundre Explores Sale Of Wastewater For Fracking

Munro said oil and gas companies, not municipalities, should be paying for any infrastructure needed to make use of wastewater in fracking operations.

“In my opinion, if industry wants this, industry has to pay. I don’t understand why Sundre would have to pay or why Mountain View County would have to pay. Industry needs to pay”

By Dan Singleton, December 6, 2011, Mountain View Gazette
Sundre town council has instructed its administration to look into the possibility of the municipality selling the town’s wastewater to oil and gas companies for use in fracturing operations in the region.
During last week’s governance committee meeting, Ron Baker, Sundre director of operations and a licensed petroleum technologist, made a presentation to council on Sundre’s water usage and the potential for the municipality to divert its wastewater for fracking.
“Alberta Environment has said they are considering allowing the difference between how much (potable water) the town produces and how much the town treats to be the amount of wastewater we can sell,” said Baker.
In 2010, the Town of Sundre put 484,277 cubic metres of water from its treatment plant into the distribution system. At the same time, the town treated 596,780 cubic metres of wastewater at its lagoon, which was eventually discharged into the Red Deer River.
The difference of 112,503 cubic metres is the amount the province may allow to be sold for use in fracking, he said.
Sundre currently sells treated water to anyone, including oil and gas companies, at $5.50 per cubic metre.
... Exactly how much money Sundre could make by selling the wastewater remains to be determined, she said.
“That’s the next step is to investigate the business model and see what it would look like,” she said.
Any plan to sell the wastewater would require the construction of a pumping facility at the current Sundre wastewater lagoon, she said.
“That would be the infrastructure that we would require to load the water trucks to carry the water out,” she said. “The cost of building that will be part of the business model that we’ve asked administration to come up with.”
The town will also be investigating the possibility of forming partnerships on the venture, she said, noting that partnerships could conceivably include Mountain View County.
Clews said she hopes administration will be able to come back with more information on the proposal early in the new year.
“I would like to see it as soon as possible because the fracking is picking up speed, there is more and more of it in the Sundre area, so the sooner we can get on it the better,” she said.
Baker said his investigation into the possibility of Sundre selling wastewater for fracking will including discussions with area oil and gas companies, trucking companies, and Alberta Environment.
... Mountain View County Division 6 councillor Paddy Munro said he is in support of using wastewater instead of fresh water for fracking operations.
“I sure like that idea,” said Munro. “When the fracking companies take completely potable, perfect fresh water and they mix it with very toxic chemicals and then inject it at very high pressure, every litre that they put down a hole is lost forever to the human environment.”
Munro said oil and gas companies, not municipalities, should be paying for any infrastructure needed to make use of wastewater in fracking operations.
“In my opinion, if industry wants this, industry has to pay. I don’t understand why Sundre would have to pay or why Mountain View County would have to pay. Industry needs to pay,” he said. ... more.

Shell Funds Majority Of $12.5-Million Effluent-Treatment Plant At Dawson Creek BC, While The City Gets To Use Leftover Water

... it’s a win-win for both parties,” said Russ Ford, executive vice-president in charge of Shell’s onshore oil and gas business in the Americas.

The company is retaining the water licence, but won’t sell or transfer it to another company, he said.

By Gordon Hamilton, September 8, 2012, Vancouver Sun
Shell Canada and the city of Dawson Creek have teamed up to build an effluent-treatment facility at Dawson Creek that eliminates the oil and gas company’s need for Peace River water at its nearby Groundbirch natural gas venture.
The new plant, which was officially opened Friday, will conserve up to 4,000 cubic metres of water a day at Shell’s hydraulic fracturing operations, Dawson Creek mayor Mike Bernier said Friday.
Shell invested more than $11 million in the project while the city provided $1.5 million. The total cost is estimated at $12 to $13 million. The water, said Bernier, is almost as clean as the city’s tap water.
Water use by oil and gas companies is a controversial issue in the Peace River region, which can be subject to drought conditions. Hydraulic fracturing requires huge volumes of water, which are pumped underground with sand and lubricating chemicals to crack shale formations, releasing the gas trapped inside. Most companies use surface water and water produced from drilling operations.
The Dawson Creek treatment plant has been in operation for a month, converting 4,000 cubic metres of treated sewer water a day. Now that Shell is using the city’s treated waste water, it will not be drawing water from its 5,000-cubic-metre-a-day licence on the Peace River.
“We’ve got the water that we needed to use from a source that was basically waste water from the city. Building a plant allows us to get that cleaned up for our operation but also leaves some excess for the city. So it’s a win-win for both parties,” said Russ Ford, executive vice-president in charge of Shell’s onshore oil and gas business in the Americas. The company is retaining the water licence, but won’t sell or transfer it to another company, he said.
”It takes some of the stress out of the system in an area that can get kind of dry,” Ford said. “You reuse what you take out of the city rather than going to river points or other places where we are permitted to take water.”
Shell has built a 48-kilometre-long pipeline from the treatment plant to its Groundbirch site, where it has 250 wells, a gas-gathering system and five natural gas treatment plants.
“We have places where we can store water in the field so we can build up a supply in anticipation for days when we will use more water than the plant can put out,” said Ford.
On average, he said, Shell will use less than the 4,000 cubic metres the city’s system produces. The excess water will be used by the city for watering parks and sports fields, and will be sold to other gas companies, bringing in additional revenue to the city, said Bernier.
Bernier said the city put out a request for proposals to oil and gas companies two years ago to partner with the city on the plant.
“We recognized as a council that we were continually going through droughts in the region, and we recognized that the industry needs large amounts of water for their fracking. They were using a lot of our potable water and we wanted to get to the point where we could get industry off our potable water without having a negative effect on them.”
He said the plant brings the city’s effluent “almost up to potable standards.”
“Now we have about 4,000 cubic metres of water a day going through this effluent plant that can be used for fracking instead of surface water or the city’s treated water,” Bernier said.
Previously, Dawson Creek had been treating its effluent to the minimum environmental standards required and releasing it into a local river.
“Now instead of being dumped back into that river, it is being treated and reused.”
He described Shell as a company that understands it requires a social licence to operate in the Dawson Creek region. Shell had also been trucking water from the city to Groundbirch, which was an issue for local landowners because of the traffic and dust on regional roads.
“This project wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Shell coming for-ward and saying that they would pay for a majority of it.” ... more.

For Farms in the West, Oil Wells Are Thirsty Rivals

'Water flows uphill to money'

By Matthew Staver, September 5, 2012, The New York Times
GREELEY, Colo. — A new race for water is rippling through the drought-scorched heartland, pitting farmers against oil and gas interests, driven by new drilling techniques that use powerful streams of water, sand and chemicals to crack the ground and release stores of oil and gas.

A single such well can require five million gallons of water, and energy companies are flocking to water auctions, farm ponds, irrigation ditches and municipal fire hydrants to get what they need.

That thirst is helping to drive an explosion of oil production here, but it is also complicating the long and emotional struggle over who drinks and who does not in the arid and fast-growing West. Farmers and environmental activists say they are worried that deep-pocketed energy companies will have purchase on increasingly scarce water supplies as they drill deep new wells that use the technique of hydraulic fracturing.

And this summer’s record-breaking drought, which dried up wells and ruined crops, has only amplified those concerns.
'It’s not a level playing field,” said Peter V. Anderson, who grows corn and alfalfa on the parched plains of eastern Colorado. “I don’t think in reality that the farmer can compete with the oil and gas companies for that water. Their return is a hell of a lot better than ours.'
... In average years, farmers and ranchers like Mr. Anderson say they pay about $30 for an acre foot of water — equal to about 326,000 gallons — a price that can rise to $100 when water is scarce. Right now, oil and gas companies in parts of Colorado are paying as much as $1,000 to $2,000 for an equal amount of treated water from city pipes. That money can be a blessing for strained local utilities and water departments, but farmers say there is no way they can afford to match those bids. 'We’re not going to be able to raise the food we need,' said Ben Rainbolt, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. 'How are we going to produce this with less?' In the spring, during an annual auction of surplus water in northern Colorado, Mr. Anderson and a handful of other farmers were outbid by water haulers who supply hydraulic fracturing wells.
'Energy companies are moving quickly to shore up supplies,' said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. 'They’re going to find it, and they’re going to pay what they need to pay, and it’s on an order of magnitude of what crop producers can afford to pay. That changes the whole deal.'
... 'Water flows uphill to money,' said Mike Chiropolos, a lawyer for Western Resource Advocates, an environmental group based in Boulder. 'It’s only going to get more precious and more scarce.' In June, the group released a study that accused Colorado of underestimating the amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, saying the true figure was between 7.2 billion and 13 billion gallons per year — enough to serve as many as 296,100 people. ... more.

24/7 Less Peace In The Peace

... reality quickly sets in when one of the hundreds of daily water tanker trucks passes by with its roaring diesel engine, about to deliver fresh water to the Talisman fracking operation holding pits. 

By Will Koop, October 13, 2010, BC Tap Water Alliance

In this area of northeastern British Columbia lies the Montney Shale formation, some 7 million hectares in total area as identified and studied by provincial and federal geologists.

Talisman Energy Inc., which has been operating south and southwest of Hudson’s Hope over the last 15 years, has great new investments and aspirations in the northwestern sector of the Montney.

And it, like other large energy companies operating in northeast BC, needs a lot of the public’s resources and fossil fuels from Alberta’s tar sands to get the job done and the toxic gas out.
And, as one or two energy companies have boldly stated, some of the shale gas energy is destined to help develop the tar sands, the corporations that co-operate the tar sands and the deep shale gas.
... reality quickly sets in when one of the hundreds of daily water tanker trucks passes by with its roaring diesel engine, about to deliver fresh water to the Talisman fracking operation holding pits.

Local residents report a minimum average of 200 tanker trucks per day, many with Alberta license plates, roaring along and dusting up the rural countryside roads and farms.  ... more.


Fort Nelson First Nation To Discuss Massive Shale Gas Water Licenses Nov. 13 In Vancouver

Under the current Water Act, withdrawal licenses are valid for up to 40 years.

... Encana's license application, which would involve constructing a 20-metre concrete barrier across the river, is just one of 20 similar applications throughout the region, which could ultimately represent over a trillion litres of fresh water being diverted to shale gas production in the long-term.

By Damien Gillis, November 10, 2012, The Canadian.org
Leaders of Fort Nelson First Nation from northeast BC are coming to Vancouver to share their concerns over 20 new long-term water withdrawal licenses the BC Liberal Government is considering issuing for shale gas operations in their traditional territory.
One such license alone - for which natural gas giant Encana is expecting imminent approval - would enable the company to dam and divert up to 3 BILLION litres a year of fresh water from the Fort Nelson River, which is described by elders as the lifeblood of their territory and identified by the community as a cultural protection zone. Under the current Water Act, withdrawal licenses are valid for up to 40 years.
“We are extremely concerned about a massive giveaway of water from our rivers and lakes, without any credible process identifying what the long-term impacts will be on our land, our families and on our community” says Fort Nelson First Nation Chief, Sharleen Wildeman. The chief will lead a 10-person delegation of council members, elders and band staff to Vancouver Tuesday Nov. 13 to take their concerns to the media and public.
... Encana's license application, which would involve constructing a 20-metre concrete barrier across the river, is just one of 20 similar applications throughout the region, which could ultimately represent over a trillion litres of fresh water being diverted to shale gas production in the long-term.
According to community representatives, "The water will be permanently withdrawn and mixed with highly toxic chemicals for shale gas extraction. Ultimately the majority of the water will be disposed of via 'deep oilfield injection'." ... more here and much more here.

From Global BC's 16X9 Untested Science with Carolyn Jarvis:

... The concern goes beyond water contamination.

People are equally incensed about how much water is required to frack, it is by far the main ingredient in that sandy soup injected underground, and to many, a far more precious resource than natural gas. 

BC MLA Bob Simpson wants the environmental impact of fracking figured out before the government hands out long-term water licenses to gas companies.
Simpson brought us here to Beaver Lake near Victoria to make his point.
Bob Simpson: It represents about one billion litres of fresh water, and one of the largest hydraulic fracking or fracking jobs in British Columbia used this amount of water for that one frack job.
Carolyn Jarvis: A billion litres of water?
Bob Simpson: Yeah
Carolyn Jarvis: And you're seeing this volume of water being used in one single operation?
Bob Simpson: Correct, we're going to be seeing trillions of litres ... tens of trillions of litres of British Columbia's fresh water forced into the ground with toxin, all under the auspices of it's a clean transition fuel, and of course we're now getting evidence that it's not clean, it's actually dirtier than coal ... watch 16x9 - Untested Science: Fracking Natural Gas Controversy



September 10, 2011, Cochrane Alberta - From Award-Winning Journalist and Author Andrew Nikiforuk's Presentation on Hydraulic Fracturing. Here he talks about the exorbitant water use.


A Lochend Long-Reach Horizontal - Featuring 40 Fracks

By LIPG Member TriOil Resources Ltd., October 9, 2012
TriOil successfully participated in the drilling of the first long-reach horizontal oil well (over 2,800 meters open in the Cardium "A") in the Lochend region (TOL 50%) and completed the well with a 40 stage hybrid frac during the third quarter.

... We are encouraged by the early results of this well and plan to drill 2 additional long-reach horizontal wells in the first half of 2013. ... more.


Experts: Fracking Depletes Water Supply

When water is used for fracking, it's used to extinction.

"It's taken out of the hydrological cycle, never used again," Phillip Doe, a former environmental compliance officer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said Thursday.
"When they say 5 million gallons for a frack, they're talking about 5 million gallons that will never see light again, and that's if they're lucky."

Speaking during a League of Women Voters Cross Currents forum on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," for oil and gas drilling, Doe said one of the biggest challenges facing the Front Range today is the amount of water used for drilling for oil and natural gas.
That's because water used for agriculture and most other uses is returned into the hydrological cycle and used again.

But most water used for fracking is not.  ... more.


Cochrane Reviews Environmental and Social Policies on Water Use for Hydraulic Fracturing 

McBride said the amount of water used by the fracking operation is actually quite small

By Colette Derworiz, August 16, 2012, Calgary Herald
Cochrane is reviewing the environmental and social policies around its bulk water supply after concerns were raised about it being used for fracking operations near the town.

Earlier this month, residents raised concerns about water being sold off to oil and gas companies for hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which uses water to free trapped gas and oil from underground rock. Some suggest that the use of fracking could contaminate water.

Mayor Truper McBride said the town’s water licence allows it to sell it in bulk for industry use such agriculture or oil and gas.

'The landscape around Cochrane is changing quite quickly,' he said, noting there’s some angst attached to the amount of fracking that is taking place in the area.

Those concerns are growing across Alberta by environmentalists and landowners alike.

'It just shows water is for sale in the province,' said Don Bester, of the Alberta Surface Rights Group, noting oil and gas companies are offering big money to municipalities for water. 'It’s a big concern.'

Alberta’s Water Act allows for the sale of water by a municipality provided it stays within the amount allocated under its licence.

McBride said the amount of water used by the fracking operation is actually quite small, but noted there’s enough concern that the town will review its social and environmental policies around water.

'It’s going to be looking at best practices around Alberta and the United States, because fracking is so new here,' he said, noting the rate for someone buying bulk water from the town is currently the same for residential and industrial usage.

It’s expected the review would report back in time for the town’s budget discussions in November. 'There’s nothing hasty going to be done,' said McBride, noting they won’t change any agreements before then. 'We want to take a holistic approach to it.' ... more.

Sources of Water for Fracking Troubles Some in Community

Present policy states that water is to be reused whenever possible. Water for the purposes of ‘frack’ fluid, however, is not reused due to the various chemicals that are added to the fluid.

By Derek Clouthier, August 8, 2012, Cochrane Eagle
The reason behind McBride’s trepidation is because Cochrane’s present policy states that water is a precious resource, one that is supposed to be treated in a responsible and sustainable manner, and that the town is obligated to act as good stewards of the watershed.

McBride, however, now feels that the sale of Cochrane’s potable, bulk water supply does not adhere to this pledge of sustainability.

'Arguably, we should be expecting those we sell our treated municipal water to be meeting or exceeding the policy objectives that council and the region have laid out for us,' said McBride, adding that there is a regional policy in place recognizing water as a scarcity in the Cochrane area, which compels the town to utilize the resource principally for urban and municipal purposes.

'There should not be a double standard in place with our residents being told to preserve,' the mayor contended, 'but then turning around and selling unrecoverable water to certain industries in bulk form.'

Present policy states that water is to be reused whenever possible. Water for the purposes of ‘frack’ fluid, however, is not reused due to the various chemicals that are added to the fluid. ... more.

Town Should Take Steps to Fix Water Management Policy

'We are out of balance and our priorities, policies and practices for water management and use are unsustainable'

By Judy Stewart, August 8, 2012, Cochrane Eagle
Pathway 2 of the Cochrane Sustainability Plan states: 'We treat water as a precious resource.'
… Our regional water management system is out of balance in epic proportions with respect to promoting the economic interests of a few entrepreneurs and their shareholders in the oil and gas industry over the social and environmental interests of people and non-human nature in the Cochrane area.
Cochrane’s water allocation licence clearly stipulates that water diverted from the Bow River under the conditions of our relatively small license is to be used for 'municipal purposes' or for urban water supply. Fracking is not a recognized 'municipal purpose' or an urban water supply by any stretch of the most imaginative among us, and certainly when Cochrane’s licence was issued many years ago, fracking was not a municipal purpose or use contemplated.
If the report is accurate, then the town should apply for an amendment to its licence to allow for this new use of water, and given the moratorium on surface water licensing, why would such an amendment be approved by the province?
… Our water allocation licence also requires that certain quantities of 'return flows' be returned to the Bow River system, and Cochrane does eventually return much of the water it diverts through its sewage pipeline to Calgary. If water we divert under the conditions of our licence is trucked to hydraulic fracturing oil and gas well sites, and pumped deep into the ground to force oil and gas to rise to the surface, then the town is not meeting its return flow requirements. In fact, the town would then become a consumptive user of water of a considerable percentage of our licensed allocation, instead of a user that essentially returns most of what it diverts, albeit far downstream. This becomes an issue of risk to the health of the regional aquatic ecosystem.
… Does the province care given all their fine talk of cumulative effects management and regional land use planning and management?
If the town is allowing bulk water sales to the oil and gas industry for use in fracking operations, it appears that the town is not really treating water as a precious resource at all. Water is being treated as a sub-tractable input to oil and gas production because once used by this industry it is lost to the water cycle and not available to anyone else in the future, and this industry is being deemed more important than the collective interests of all other industry, business, people and the non-human world. ... more.

Alberta Government Provides A Lesson To Seniors On 'Adapting?'

If the minimum were any lower, there would be no showers at all. And one shower — even as a minimum — isn’t a level of respect or hygiene we should offer to anyone.

Braid: Seniors Shower Issue Deserves Serious Response

By Don Braid, November 28, 2012, Calgary Herald

CALGARY — Liberal MLA Kent Hehr says seniors and disabled people in care are only getting one shower a week — and the government didn’t deny it Tuesday.

This raises emotional issues as powerful as the summer’s revelation of sickening food being served in many seniors care centres.

Anyone can imagine how it would feel to endure days of grime with no relief until the seventh day.

We would feel dreadful, disgusted and demeaned. We would be angry.

And Hehr says anger is exactly what he found at the Fanning Centre when he was giving a talk on Liberal fiscal policy.

“Those people said, ‘Who gives a damn about that — we only get one shower a week. How do you feel about that, Kent’?”

Hehr claims the one-shower standard is ubiquitous across Calgary Carewest facilities. The early response from the system is that one shower is only a minimum.

This is not reassuring. If the minimum were any lower, there would be no showers at all. And one shower — even as a minimum — isn’t a level of respect or hygiene we should offer to anyone.

When Hehr raised the issue in the legislature, the associate minister in charge, George VanderBurg, made a dreadful mistake. ... more.


Alberta Landowner Learns A Lesson On 'Adapting' After Water Contaminated, Government Promises Reneged

It is too difficult for me to haul water in winter, so I often have less than one shower a week. It's pure hell. 

Staying Dirty

By Jessica Ernst, November 30, 2012, Calgary Herald

Re: "Seniors' shower issue deserves serious response," Don Braid, Opinion, Nov. 28.

I know how demeaning it is to shower only once a week. Since April 2008, when the government broke its 2006 legislature-made promise to provide "safe alternative water ... now and into the future" to all adversely affected families suffering with explosive and toxic tap water in rural frac fields, I must haul my own.

It is too difficult for me to haul water in winter, so I often have less than one shower a week. It's pure hell. Knowing that companies take profit out from under Albertans while keeping their frac chemicals secret, doubles the hell. Reading Don Braid's column triples it.

It is one thing for the government to abuse a citizen like me seeking justice. It is horrifying and unforgivable for this government to abuse seniors when it gives multinational oil and gas companies so much.

Jessica Ernst, Rosebud


Cochrane's Bulk Water Supply ‘Secondary’ Source for LIPG

The LIPG did not have an exact amount of water they have purchased from the town during the past year

By Derek, August 22, 2012, Cochrane Eagle
The Lochend Industry Producers Group (LIPG) want to ensure Cochrane and area residents that the use of the town’s bulk water supply is simply an alternative source of water for hydraulic fracturing operations.

… LIPG members — made up of six oil and gas companies: Equal Energy, NAL Resources, Pengrowth Energy, Petrobakken Energy, Tamarack Valley Energy and TriOil Resources — collaborated via email, indicated that they “welcome opportunities to work with the Town of Cochrane and Rocky View County….”

... The LIPG also wanted to clarify that they are in fact able to use ‘untreated’ water from natural resources and that what is referred to as ‘potable’ water means that it meets government standards as treated or drinking water. The most ideal water for ‘frack’ fluid is naturally occurring, untreated, fresh water.

Water that is extracted from natural sources is transported to LIPG site, where it is filtered to remove any solids and is then stored.

Samples of the water are tested to ensure it can be used for frack fluid. If necessary, a conditioning additive (usually a bacteria inhibitor) is added to the fluid during the fracturing process.

Responding to whether they prefer pre-filtered water to avoid filtering costs, the LIPG said the cost to filter natural water is ‘negligible’ and does not factor into their decision on how or where to acquire water.

LIPG member companies do presently possess a temporary water diversion permit for several natural water sources in the Cochrane area, including Cochrane Lake, Dogpound Creek, Church Ranches Estate, area dugouts and road ditches and gravel pits.

To alleviate resident concern over truck traffic, the LIPG said they always work to ensure that water is sourced from the closest approved location to any given frack site.

The LIPG also affirmed that they do not disperse used frack fluid into any municipal treatment facility, including the City of Calgary’s sewage pipeline, but rather transport the ‘flowback’ to an Energy Resources Conservation Board approved waste-water disposal site.

Flowback water can be reused up to four times, according to the LIPG, or until the chemistry is no longer suitable for their operations.

... The LIPG did not have an exact amount of water they have purchased from the town during the past year. ... more.

Dogpound Creek, Premier Trout Stream Loses Water To Fracking

What was really surprising, was that 37,000 cubic metres was allotted for the months of February and March, when the trout eggs from the previous spawning season were still incubating in the spawning habitats along the creek

Stream Tender - Posted on November 3, 2012 By Guy Woods
Dogpound Creek is a well known trout fishery in the central part of the province of Alberta. This small stream is a tributary to the Red Deer River and it is home water to a thriving population of brown trout, and brook trout in the upper reaches.
Over the years, major restoration work has brought this fine trout stream back from the brink. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to fence the stream and landowners along its course have been encouraged to create off-channel watering sites for cattle. All of this work has been completed to restore the riparian habitat along the creek and improve the water quality that will benefit not only trout survival, but also water users downstream on the system!

In the late summer of 2012, while reading an article in the local newspaper, I was shocked to learn that Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development had issued a total of 8 Temporary Diversion Licences to three energy companies, to withdraw a total of 69,000 cubic metres of water from the Dogpound Creek, during the year of 2012.

    The water withdrawl permits were issued on the following dates:
  1. Feb 13, 2012 – 8,000 cubic metres
  2. Mar 26, 2012 – 8,000 cubic metres
  3. Mar 26, 2012 – 3,500 cubic metres
  4. Mar 26, 2012 – 10,500 cubic metres
  5. Mar 26, 2012 – 7,000 cubic metres
  6. June 11, 2012 – 6,500 cubic metres
  7. July 18, 2012 – 3,500 cubic metres
  8. July 26, 2012 – 15,000 cubic metres
  9. Aug 1, 2012 – 7,000 cubic metres
What was really surprizing, was that 37,000 cubic metres was allotted for the months of Feburary and March, when the trout eggs from the previous spawning season were still incubating in the spawning habitats along the creek! Both of these months are when the water levels of the stream are at their lowest point of the entire year, yet SRD still issued the licences to the energy companies!

It seems ironic to me that one branch of the provincial government, SRD Fish & Wildlife, has taken extreme measures to protect the fishery of Dogpound Creek, while the other branch, SRD Water Resources, has issued water pumping permits that will have a negative impact on the habitat in the stream. Water provides habitat for trout, it is the environment in which they live their lives, so we must consider any loss of water in the Dogpound Creek, as the loss of fish habitat.

Fish habitat and the protection of it, is the responcibility of of the federal government’s Department of Fishes and Oceans, they are charged with protecting trout streams from any loss of habitat, under the federal fisheries act (Section 24). If there is any loss to fisheries habitat, those responcible must compensate for the loss. If there is any compensation for this water removal on Dogpound Creek, I am unaware of it!

For those that don’t know what happens to that water that was been removed from the Dogpound Creek this year; I can tell you that it was poisened with chemicals and pumped underground, for the extraction of hydro-carbons. It’s a hell of a use for clean water that has been stolen from a healthy trout stream! ... go to Stream Tender.

Bow River Becomes A Lifeline For Frackers

Companies taking water from the Bow River for drilling and fracking 

Bernum Petroleum issued licences for 9.5 million litres.  Going, going ... gone.

A 2.5 million litre Bonavista licence ... poof.







Frackers Adapt To Taking Water From Rivers To Frack Cities ... Maybe Calgary?  You may want to trade in that low-rider ...



Calgary skyline and Bow River. Can you spot the new Encana building? We'll give you a hint ... ironically, it appears to have the biggest and best views of the water.




Elsewhere In Alberta, As The Shale Fracking Heats Up: Encana Awarded Licence For 105 Million Litres ... pfffffft.








EnCana's Cabin Not So Homey:

Cumulative Environmental Effects - An Unfolding and Emerging Crisis In NorthEastern British Columbia's Shale Gas Plays

EnCana’s hydraulic fracturing at Two Island Lake on Pad 63-K (Oct. 2, 2010). According to preliminary information by EnCana and Trican Well Services on recent completed fracking operations on 9 of 14 wells here, this appears to be the largest and longest frack job in the world, doubling the fracking figures on its partner Apache’s reportedly world’s largest frack, completed in April, 2010. To frack all 14 wells, EnCana may have used 1.8 million cubic metres of water, 78,400 tonnes of sand, and up to 36,000 cubic metres of toxics. A shadow of things to come for the Horn Basin area?By Will Koop, November 9, 2010


This report raises questions about the cumulative environmental impacts of natural gas companies operating in north-eastern British Columbia’s (BC’s) energy zone. The area in question represents just over 15 percent (or over 140,000 square kilometres) of the total provincial land base.

The zone area is larger than the State of New York or the State of Iowa. Other identified petroleum zones in BC (see map on page 6) will also be targeted for energy developments in years to come.

Most of British Columbia’s 4.5 million residents are far-removed from the province’s natural gas zones. But for the relatively small number of residents who live within or on the periphery of such zones, there is an overwhelming evidence of a sharp rise in industry activities, which are having significant impacts on land and water resources. Particularly as the industry’s water-intensive hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ operations expand to stimulate gas production.

Most of the photographs and maps (100 images, maps, photos, etc.) in this report focus on the Horn River Basin (HRB) - one of the five or so petroleum shale ‘plays’, or geologic basins, in northeast BC. The HRB is estimated to be about 1.3 million hectares in size alone. The HRB has received widespread attention in energy industry publications because of the quality and voluminous amount of natural gas estimated to be trapped in its deeply buried shale formations. It is also the most rapidly developing of Canada’s shale basins and part of the so-called “shale gale” that has swept through many US states, including Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and New York. 

This report builds on a recent October 13, 2010 report by the author - 24/7 Less Peace in the Peace - which detailed some of the environmental impacts associated with Talisman Energy’s operations near and north of Hudson’s Hope, in the western Montney shale formation.

In the following pages of this report, not only will details on the cumulative impacts to lands and waters in the Horn River Basin be discussed, but questions raised about what plans - if any - the provincial and federal governments have to address such impacts.

In addition, the report will present data that refutes oft-repeated claims by government regulators, energy companies and energy industry associations that natural gas is a clean, or green fossil fuel. In fact, natural gas produced from shale formations may be among the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet.

... The gallop to own, develop, distribute and market deep shale gas over a vast public territory in northeast British Columbia is in its infancy.

These resource-intensive developments have been allowed to proceed virtually unchecked and un-scoped. In this sense, given the backdrop of evermore lax and non-existent legislation and regulations, these developments can be understood as distinct social and political failures.

Juxtaposing these failures alongside the recent implementation of TILMA (Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement) - an in-house deregulatory accord signed by the three western Canadian Premiers - the outcomes could become evermore frightening.

TILMA grants (energy) corporations legal powers (in a standstill clause) preventing new provincial regulations that in any way impede “trade, investment or labour mobility”. In hindsight, is the logical musing that the grand scale developments affecting controversial public resources like BC and Alberta gas and oil shales may be one of the obvious, significant factors behind TILMA. ... more.


PetroChina, Encana Strike Natural Gas Pact

... Under the terms of the agreement, PetroChina – China’s largest international oil company – will gain a non-controlling, 49.9-per-cent interest in Encana’s 445,000 acres in the Duvernay in west-central Alberta for $2.18-billion. 

By Shawn McCarthy - Global Energy Reporter, Dec. 13, 2012, The Globe and Mail

Encana Corp. reached a $2.2-billion joint venture with PetroChina to develop the hot new Duvernay property in Alberta, in a deal that will fly just below the radar of Investment Canada’s new guidelines on state-owned enterprises.

The pact comes less than a week after the federal government unveiled investment rules that raise new hurdles for foreign state-owned companies to take over Canadian oil and gas producers and encourage exactly the type of deal that Encana and PetroChina concluded Thursday.

... Under the terms of the agreement, PetroChina – China’s largest international oil company – will gain a non-controlling, 49.9-per-cent interest in Encana’s 445,000 acres in the Duvernay in west-central Alberta for $2.18-billion.

Encana will remain the operator with a 50.1-per-cent interest. The partners expect to spend $4-billion over the next four years to develop the Duvernay land that is rich in natural gas and condensates, an oil-like substance that is used to dilute bitumen for shipment in pipelines.

Encana entered into a similar $2.9-billion joint venture with Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp. last February to develop a shale gas field in Alberta and British Columbia.

Asian companies – whether state-owned or private-sector – are keen to buy Canadian gas reserves and are backing projects to liquefy Canadian gas at plants on British Columbia’s coast and ship it to their home markets, where gas prices are far higher than they are in Canada. ... more.


More Than 100 Leading Medical, Scientific Experts Urge White House To Halt Rush To Expanded Shale Gas Fracking For Export Purposes

... the petition is a response to the Obama Administration’s consideration of fast tracking of the permitting process for LNG export terminals that would trigger a substantial spike in the fracking of U.S. shale gas in order to meet foreign energy demands.

First, Do No Harm:  Get the Health Facts Now Is the Message From Petitioners to Obama Press Release by Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, December 13, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. Moving ahead rapidly with plans to approve several new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals would require “a rapid increase in fracking in the United States without credible science” and “could potentially cause undue harm to many Americans,” according to 107 experts who signed on to a petition sent today to the White House.

Facilitated by Physicians, Scientists, & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE), the petition is a response to the Obama Administration’s consideration of fast tracking of the permitting process for LNG export terminals that would trigger a substantial spike in the fracking of U.S. shale gas in order to meet foreign energy demands.

Signed by top U.S. medical professionals, researchers, and other scientists, the petition reads in part:  “There is a growing body of evidence that unconventional natural gas extraction from shale (also known as ‘fracking’) may be associated with adverse health risks through exposure to polluted air, water, and soil.  Public health researchers and medical professionals question the continuation of current levels of fracking without a full scientific understanding of the health implications. The opening of LNG export facilities would serve to accelerate fracking in the United States in absence of sound scientific assessment, placing policy before health.”

Seth B. Shonkoff, PhD, MPH, executive director, Physicians, Scientists, & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE), and environmental researcher, University of California, Berkeley, said:  “The question here is very simple:  Why would the United States dramatically increase the use of an energy extraction method without first ensuring that the trade-off is not the health of Americans in exchange for the energy demands of foreign nations?   Health professionals are coming together today to urge the White House to make sure that we have the facts prior to making this decision.  The only prudent thing to do here is to conduct the needed research first.”

Adam Law, MD, physician, Cayuga Medical Center, Ithaca, NY, and Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy, said:  “Researchers are finding measurable levels of pollutants from this industry in air and water that are associated with the risk of illness. The first studies to describe this are entering the scientific literature and public health researchers are embarking on multiple approaches to study the associated adverse health effects.”  

Madelon L. Finkel, PhD, professor of clinical public health, and director of the Office of Global Health Education, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City, said: “Natural gas has been in these shale formations for millions of years; it isn’t going anywhere and will be around for future generations. Society especially owes it to those living in areas with both active and planned drilling to study the potential for harm (to the environment and to human and animal health) and to act to reduce those factors that are shown to increase the risk of disease and even death.”

Louis W. Allstadt, former executive vice president, Mobil Oil Corporation, Cooperstown, NY, said: “The current unconventional oil and gas drilling process using High Volume Horizontal Hydro-Fracturing is a much more intensive industrial activity than conventional drilling, which was the norm until about 10 years ago. It requires far greater volumes of water and chemicals, as well as disposal of much larger volumes of toxic flow-back fluids. We need to fully study and understand the health effects of the significantly greater volumes of toxic materials that must be handled and disposed of with this process.”

The full text of the PSE petition reads as follows:

“We the undersigned medical and scientific professionals urge the Obama Administration to put a hold on moving forward on the construction of new liquefied natural gas terminals for the large-scale exportation of shale gas to foreign nations. Our concern is that the Administration has not fully examined the potential for harm to health and the environment that could result.

There is a growing body of evidence that unconventional natural gas extraction from shale (also known as ‘fracking’) may be associated with adverse health risks through exposure to polluted air, water, and soil.

Public health researchers and medical professionals question the continuation of current levels of fracking without a full scientific understanding of the health implications. The opening of LNG export facilities would serve to accelerate fracking in the United States in absence of sound scientific assessment, placing policy before health.

As the White House and the Department of Energy contemplate exporting LNG to accommodate international demand for energy, the need for a deliberative process based on sound science is all the more important. We assert that a guiding ethical principle for public policy on fracking should parallel that used by physicians: ‘First, do not harm.’

There is a need for much more scientific and epidemiologic information about the potential for harm from fracking. To facilitate a rapid increase in fracking in the United States without credible science is irresponsible and could potentially cause undue harm to many Americans.

Without well-designed scientific studies, we will not know the extent of potential harm from fracking.  We strongly urge the Administration to err on the side of caution as it contemplates national policy regarding the exportation of shale gas.

The health professionals below sign as individuals and do not necessarily represent the views of their employer.” 





Reader Questions Hutchinson Drilling

What has our province come to?

By Carolin Koebisch, February 28, 2012, The Cochrane Eagle
Multi-well pad lined with flow-back tanks north of Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, Rocky View County, AlbertaI am appalled by the idea that the Nature Conservancy of Canada has allowed the recent drilling activity on the donated Hutchinson lands just north of Big Hill Springs Park.
I guess in Alberta oil drilling/fracking must qualify as “ranching use”.
Besides the obvious land disturbance, the noise level of the drilling is to be heard from a few kilometres away until about 2 a.m. each morning.
So I guess I don’t have to wonder if any deer, or moose, will still be found on these lands from now on . . . perhaps the most meaningful part of Hutchinson’s Nature Conservancy now will be the fact that no more moose/deer will be killed crossing that particular stretch of highway.
Hence forward it will be “human fatalities only” when cars/trucks will come flying over the hill, just to find themselves having to brake last minute for the tractor trailers approaching the road turn off.
What has our province come to?

Cochranite Reminisces of Years Gone By

'I have a passion for planting trees. I planted 600 trees at the Oxyoke Ranch'

By Karla Reinhard, Cochrane Eagle, June 13, 2012
Jo had known Jonathan Hutchinson all her life. They were married in 1967 and settled in at the Oxyoke Ranch located on highway 567 northeast of Cochrane. Jonathan’s father, Walter Hutchinson, had purchased the land and the brand in 1906 and convinced his fiancée, Lena, to make the long trip to Cochrane from New Zealand to marry him in 1907. The Oxyoke Ranch flourished and grew to 16 sections after Walter had purchased it from Robert and Ella Cowan.

Jon was the youngest in his family. After his two older brothers and sister were married and established their own ranches on their share of the property, he and Jo ran the home place, caring for his aging parents. They raised pulled Herefords; Jo enjoyed working in her huge garden, planting 400 bedding plants in her greenhouse, baking, cooking, sewing and knitting.

“I have a passion for planting trees. I planted 600 trees at the Oxyoke Ranch” she said proudly.
... In the 1990s, with the increasing encroachment of acreage developments and the shrinking profitability of agriculture, Jon and Jo decided to take steps to save the land they both loved. After a long struggle with the government, they were able to place a conservation easement on much of the property with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. This ensures that the land can only be used for pasture and never be broken.

“The Nature Conservancy is a nation-wide organization. Its whole existence is for the preservation of land in its natural state” Jo explained. ... more.


Drilling Letter ‘Misleading’

These protocols provide strategies to reduce impact and avoid sensitive areas and all companies to date have worked with us to implement them. 

By Bob Demulder, Regional Vice President, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Alberta Region, March 13, 2012, The Cochrane Eagle
October 2012 - An oil company takes water for their operations from the Oxyoke Nature Preserve, Rocky View County AlbertaThe Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has been working in Alberta for more than 40 years. In that time, we have completed more than 200 projects that protect more than 185,000 acres (75,000 hectares) of the province’s most ecologically significant land and water.
A recent letter to the Eagle (“Reader questions Hutchinson drilling”), leaves a misleading impression of our work.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada does not own the land referred to in the letter. We work with the landowner by way of a legal agreement to conserve and maintain the conservation values of the land. As a result, NCC is not in a position to either allow or disallow drilling activity on the land.

Here for the taking - a hose used by the oil companies to remove water from the Oxyoke Nature Preserve remains for the next tanker to hook up. Rocky View County, AlbertaIn Alberta the vast majority of subsurface rights rest with the Crown. The issue of surface conservation values versus subsurface rights represents a unique challenge to all land trusts, including NCC. Under provincial law we are unable to ignore surface access requests. They will eventually be granted without landowner consent by the Surface Rights Board.
Given this, NCC chooses to work proactively to engage resource companies in our planning and conservation activities. To be clear, our preferred option is to redirect any development away from our properties — but that is not always a workable option. In cases where avoidance cannot be achieved, we have developed detailed protocols that encourage resource companies to follow responsible practices when they have the right to access property. These protocols provide strategies to reduce impact and avoid sensitive areas and all companies to date have worked with us to implement them.

B.C. Gets $10 Million Windfall to Protect Flathead River Valley

Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Nature Conservancy (a separate U.S. group with a similar name) had secured $10-million in funding for the Flathead project.

... He said it is unusual for non-profits to give money to governments

 By Mark Hume, September 14, 2012, The Globe and Mail 

Two leading conservation groups have come up with $10-million in funding to help protect a wilderness valley in British Columbia that President Barack Obama has long urged Canada to save.
Mr. Obama first called for the protection of the Flathead River Valley, in southeast B.C., in 2008, when he was seeking the Democratic nomination and wanted to garner support in Montana, where the governor was lobbying the province to ban coal mining in the watershed. The Flathead River flows south into a protected area in Montana.
The President’s interest helped prompt B.C. and Montana, on the eve of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining plans to protect the valley. But it wasn’t until Friday that the final piece of that agreement fell into place, with an announcement that Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Nature Conservancy (a separate U.S. group with a similar name) had secured $10-million in funding for the Flathead project.
John Lounds, CEO of Nature Conservancy of Canada, said in an interview the money will go to the B.C. government to help implement the environmental protection provisions of the MOU, which will include compensating coal and mineral tenure holders displaced by the deal.
He said it is unusual for non-profits to give money to governments, but in this case it makes sense because it allows the MOU to be implemented. 'It’s a new kind of an arrangement. It hasn’t been done very often before,' Mr. Lounds said.
Nature Conservancy of Canada is providing up to $6-million, much of which originated with the federal government’s Natural Areas Conservation Program, a $225-million investment by Ottawa meant to help non-profit organizations secure ecologically sensitive lands. The Nature Conservancy leads the program, which typically requires groups to match federal funds dollar for dollar.
Mr. Lounds said when the MOU was first signed it was hoped the U.S. government would come up with the funding, but that didn’t happen when the U.S. economy faltered, so the two conservation groups decided to fill the gap.
The Nature Conservancy raised money from private donors, with the largest contribution – $2.5-million – coming from Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm founded in New York, that has offices in 10 countries. In a statement, Charles Kaye, co-president of Warburg Pincus, said his company is 'proud to play a role in the preservation of the Canadian wilderness.' ... more.

Nature Conservancy Sells 69,000 Acres in Adirondacks to New York State

Long Island Newsday - An editorial cartoon by Mark Wilson about Andrew Cuomo's policy on fracking in the Adirondacks. Mark Wilson is a New York political cartoonist and illustrator who lives in the Adirondacks. He publishes under the pen name Marquil.By The Associated Press, August 5, 2012, The New York Times

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — New York State is acquiring the biggest chunk of land in the Adirondacks in more than a century.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Sunday the acquisition of 69,000 acres that he said would preserve a significant portion of the upper Hudson River watershed. Mr. Cuomo said the $49.8 million purchase would bolster state tourism, with new destinations for those who love water sports, hiking, hunting and snowmobiling.

He said it would be the first time the land had been open for public use in 150 years.

The land is being sold to the state over a five-year period by the Nature Conservancy, which bought a 161,000-acre timberland property in 2007, managing much of it with the intent to protect the land. ... more.

Dollars, Politics Force Officials to Ignore Alberta Wetlands: Study

Alberta Environment routinely and increasingly disregards its own guidelines on protecting and conserving wetlands

By The Canadian Press, September 30, 2012
If Shari Clare noticed anything during five years as a private-sector environmental consultant in Alberta it was the 'void between what regulations say and what happens on the ground.'
That void became the subject of her thesis, which is soon to be published in the journal Society and Natural Resources. Two years of research at the University of Alberta gave her what she calls a scientifically credible analysis of 'the subtle, hidden power that everyone in Alberta knows about but nobody talks about.'
Wetland sculpture by LIPG member company, Equal Energy - Rocky View County, AlbertaAlberta Environment routinely and increasingly disregards its own guidelines on protecting and conserving wetlands, she concludes.
She uses 34 lengthy interviews with everyone from executive-level bureaucrats to industry representatives to describe a government culture where well-intentioned rules often come second to politics and dollars.
"You need to have some strength and willingness on the regulator’s side to be able to say ‘no,’ ” she quotes one government employee as saying. “I’m not sure that saying ‘no’ is in the provincial vocabulary.”
Wetlands filter runoff, buffer floods and provide highly biodiverse habitat, so developers must get provincial approval before disturbing them. 'Alberta Environment’s priority is to avoid having land development impact wetland area whenever possible,' provincial guidelines say.
… Consideration for not disturbing the wet areas in the first place appeared to be rare. Said one environmental consultant interviewed in the study: 'I skip to (compensation) right away, just because I’ve never encountered somebody saying, ‘No, don’t touch this wetland.”‘
Clare’s paper suggests guidelines are being ignored because it would take too long to find replacement wetlands that fit the bill. 'The lack of compensation sites was identified in interviews as being a major impediment to the ability of applicants to ‘get on with their development,' she writes.
'Many government regulators feel that they are responsible for ensuring reasonableness and fairness for proponents, rather than apply the guidelines as written. By bartering less environmentally demanding wetland compensation requirements, regulators minimize political costs for government and financial costs for proponents.' ... more.

Fracking Grievances Aired at Eagle Hill, Mountain View County


“The water is more important to me than anything else,” said one farmer, and following Willard’s assurance that lower-value farmland is used whenever possible, he described how his neighbours have allowed oil companies “to drill in the sloughs – lease after lease after lease – and there is no responsibility for preserving the farmland for future generations.”

By John Gleeson, September 13, 2011 Mountain View Gazette

The Energy Resources Conservation Board is currently reviewing all its regulations in light of new extraction technology and will make an important announcement soon on the disclosure of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, an ERCB official told about 100 Mountain View and Red Deer county residents at Eagle Hill last Wednesday.

Despite those and other assurances, however, residents peppered the ERCB panel with pointed questions and many related grievances about the impact of fracking operations in the Eagle Hill and James River Bridge areas.

Road and traffic issues, sustained noise and flaring, water contamination, lack of respect for residents, and the ineffectiveness of the ERCB to regulate the activity were common concerns raised during the meeting.

“I worry about safety – the safety of my family,” Chris Hume of James River Bridge said, citing “tremendous” amounts of traffic, reckless driving, noise and odour issues.

“There’s noise all the time. I’m fed up,” Hume said.

While the county seems to be on the side of residents, “it seems the ERCB is advocating for the companies,” he added.

“There needs to be some accountability here and there doesn’t seem to be any under this government. What’s the next thing – a class-action lawsuit? … The status quo is no good,” he said and the crowd applauded.

Sharon Roth of Eagle Hill asked officials what they meant by road management, since trucks use excessive speed and apply airbrakes at night. “The traffic is horrendous and there seems to be no control on that.”

Bob Willard, senior advisor in the ERCB’s operations division, said those issues would fall under road use agreements with the municipality.

Mountain View County reeve Paddy Munro, addressing the crowd, concurred with Roth’s comments.

“We’ve seen lots of problems in that area,” Munro said. “Roads destroyed. Dust control destroyed. It’s very hard to deal with the oil companies. They’re acting like bullies – they run slipshod over the people’s rights and that’s why we’re here tonight.”

... One speaker from west of Eagle Hill described how on a Monday night, after a weekend fracking operation, “I went to have a bath, turned the water on and it went bang: all the water turned black. And you say it doesn’t come to the surface?” he asked Willard.

When Willard replied that there was a number to call at Alberta Environment, some audience members laughed.

Kevin Hinchcliffe of Eagle Hill said he filed an objection to a pipeline on a neighbour’s property and the company refused to meet with him and simply went ahead and built the pipeline.

“How can you regulate them if you can’t bring them to the table?” Hinchcliffe asked, adding that his request to the ERCB for a review was denied.

Water was a major issue for many speakers.

... “The water is more important to me than anything else,” said one farmer, and following Willard’s assurance that lower-value farmland is used whenever possible, he described how his neighbours have allowed oil companies “to drill in the sloughs – lease after lease after lease – and there is no responsibility for preserving the farmland for future generations.”

Responding to concerns about “slick water” – with a 20 per cent methane blend – contaminating surface water, Willard said the ERCB “supports full disclosure” of chemicals used in the process, and added there would be an announcement later this month on the issue.

... Reg Watson commended both the county and the ERCB for holding the meeting, calling it “a great way to get the information out.”

“The only thing missing here tonight is the companies,” Watson added.

Munro said oil and gas companies in the region were sent written invitations “and I’m not aware of any of them being here,” he said.

In fact, Shell Canada was present at the meeting and Midland Energy had also been there earlier, said Tracey McCrimmon, executive director of the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group, who moderated the event.

Munro said another public information session will be held at the county building in November. Meanwhile, the county is working on a document similar to the Strathcona Protocol, which sets out clear guidelines to minimize the impact of oil and gas activity.

“Don’t bet this county’s not going to deal with it,” Munro said. “We’re going to deal with it.” ... more.


Watershed Planning Group Acting As 'Propaganda Machine,' Says Munro

With industry officials being the “dominant” players on the watershed alliance’s board of directors, the group “may represent nothing more than a public relations exercise with a predetermined outcome”

By John Gleeson, Feb 14, 2012, Mountain View Gazette

A provincial advisory body on the Red Deer River watershed appears to be no more than a “propaganda machine” for industry, Mountain View County councillor Paddy Munro charged last week.

In a scathing report to council’s policies and priorities committee on Wednesday, Munro (Div. 6) said the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance has systematically ignored the impacts of hydraulic fracturing and logging on the watershed.

“I see no reason for municipal governments to fund what appears to be a public relations stunt (and) a PR campaign against its citizens’ own best interests,” Munro said.

The group’s State of the Watershed Report, a 900-page document on the watershed’s environmental integrity completed in 2009, does not even contain a section on the impact of forestry, he said.

“When you have an industry that takes a million cubic metres a year off the eastern slope, it should be mentioned. It’s a data gap.”

But it’s the group’s virtual silence about fracking that Munro said concerns him the most.

The report, he said, cites outdated oil production data suggesting that surface water use by the industry is expected to decline by five per cent each year.

“Fracking is the biggest deal in oil and gas in its history. In the United States it’s the hottest topic going. It’s an environmental catastrophe and the American government has encouraged it for energy independence.”

More than 1,000 cases of groundwater contamination have been documented by courts and state and local governments in Colorado, Wyoming and Pennsylvania, he said, adding that areas in those states have been labelled part of the National Sacrifice Zone.

“I don’t want Harmattan, Eagle Valley and Eagle Hill to be called the Sacrifice Zone 10 years from now,” Munro said. ... more.



 A Land Out of Time - Watch It Disappear


Arrests Made in Blood Tribe Fracking Blockade

Written by Meghan Grant

Three women from the Kainai Blood Tribe have been arrested in connection with a protest at a fracking operation in southern Alberta.

Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Jill Crop Eared Wolf and Lois Frank were arrested Saturday and charged with trespassing and intimidation after a convoy of Murphy Oil trucks was blocked overnight Friday. About a dozen Blood Tribe members reportedly participated in the blockade.

Tailfeathers said members of the band feel betrayed by their chief and council who, without consulting tribal members, leased half of the Blood Tribe land in southern Alberta, which lies between the Old Man, St. Mary and Belly rivers.'… more.


Peaceful Protestors Charged with 'Intimidation'

... 'I’m not the one who should be in court, it should be the oil companies' ...

As evidence that her concerns are justified, she points to the growing list of communities who are declaring moratoriums on fracking until more studies have been done and an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study that found water contamination from fracking to be a cause of serious concern.

By Kimlee Wong - APTN National News, Cardston AB        

Three Kainai women from the Blood reserve in southern Alberta appeared in Cardston provincial court on Dec. 21 after being arrested by Blood Tribe police and charged with 'intimidation' for blocking the highway.

Lois Frank, Elle-Maija Apiniskim Tailfeathers and Jill Crop Eared Wolf are members of a group called the Kainai Earth Watch.  

Elle-Maija Tailfeathers and Lois Frank charged with 'intimidation'The charges came as a result of a Sept. 9 non-violent protest against hydraulic fracking on their lands. The women stood in front of Murphy Oil company trucks, refusing to let the trucks leave an oil well site on the reserve.  

 ...  Environmental regulations on reserve are less comprehensive than Canadian standards. Former Auditor General Sheila Fraser in her 2011 update, warned that it will take a lot of time for First Nation standards to be improved to meet the standards other Canadians take for granted.    

'First Nation reserves may still be years away from having drinking water protection comparable to what exists off-reserve in Canada,' Fraser wrote.         

In 2010, the Blood Tribe chief and council signed a five-year lease agreement with two oil and gas companies, Murphy Oil and Bowood Energy, giving them drilling rights to roughly half of the community’s land base.

The women who were arrested say the community never had a say in the agreement.

... A grandmother of seven and a former University of Lethbridge lecturer, Frank said she believes fracking is already damaging the land and she is worried about her community’s well-being. She said the two earthquakes listed by Natural Resources Canada on Dec. 5 were in the area of the oil and gas well where she and the other women were arrested. She also believes that the Dec. 8 closing of the community school due to strong gas smells and sickness in the children are also related to the fracking.                      

'I’m not the one who should be in court, it should be the oil companies,' said Frank.

As evidence that her concerns are justified, she points to the growing list of communities who are declaring moratoriums on fracking until more studies have been done and an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study that found water contamination from fracking to be a cause of serious concern.

First Nations leaders have long complained that when accidents do happen on or near their lands, it’s their communities, not the companies, that are stuck with the tab and the adverse health effects.

Frank said she understands the difficult position chiefs are in as they try to provide for their communities in a system of chronic under-funding, but feels that the strength of their people and community can only come by protecting the integrity of the lands and waters. ... more.


Crown Decides Not to Prosecute University Professor and Grandmother Lois Frank

PRESS RELEASE - June 20, 2012, klew.org

At her seventh appearance at Cardston Provincial Court on today, counsel for the prosecution informed the Court that the Crown directs a stay of proceedings. Frank had been arrested and charged with 'intimidation' under Section 423 (1) (G) of the Criminal Code for standing in front of Murphy Oil and GASFRAC trucks on September 9, 2011 near an oil well site on the Blood Reserve.

Frank, a member of the Blood Tribe, had earlier filed Notice of a Constitutional Question and had informed the Court that she pleaded 'not guilty' to the charges.





Lois Frank – Moving Together for Mother Earth: Envisioning Justice in Our Communities October 27, 2012 by Council of Canadians (2012) 



Loophole Lets Toxic Oil Water Flow Over Indian Land

... Some of the waste streams sometimes include chemicals from hydraulic fracturing ... . They also include chemicals whose warning labels clearly state “toxic to aquatic organisms,” “prevent material from entering sewers or waterways,” and warnings about cancer and birth defects at low levels.

By Elizabeth Shogren, November 15, 2012, NPR

The air reeks so strongly of rotten eggs that tribal leader Wes Martel hesitates to get out of the car at an oil field on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. He already has a headache from the fumes he smelled at another oil field.

Martel is giving me a tour of one of a dozen oil and gas fields on the reservation. These operations have the federal government’s permission to dump wastewater on the land – so much that it creates streams that flow into natural creeks and rivers. And this water contains toxic chemicals, including known carcinogens and radioactive material, according to documents obtained by NPR through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The fumes hitting Martel’s nose are hydrogen sulfide, which can be deadly. So Martel makes sure the wind is at his back before walking over to a pit the size of several tennis courts. Pipes are emptying dirty brown water that came up from oil wells into the pit, which is completely covered in goopy black oil.

The oil is supposed to float to the surface, and then a truck will vacuum it up. Any solid stuff should fall on the bottom of the pit, before the water rushes out and forms a stream. But there are still chemicals in the water - some from the earth, some from the oil, and some the companies add to make the oil flow faster.

About a half-mile from the pit, Martel stops the car on a bridge over that stream of murky gray water. A shiny film covers the water in some places.

“I wish a lot of people could see this,” says Martel, the vice chairman of the Eastern Shoshone Business Council, the tribal government. “This is something that’s going on in the reservation: This don’t look too cool.“

In most of the country, this would be illegal.

… So why is this wastewater being released into a desert wilderness of sagebrush-covered foothills and sandstone cliffs that blaze with reds and oranges?

The few cows grazing nearby provide a clue.

“You can see the tracks into the water here,” says Martel. “This is one of their watering holes.”

Without the wastewater, this area would be bone dry most of the year.

In the 1970s, when the Environmental Protection Agency was banning oil companies from dumping their wastewater, ranchers, especially in Wyoming, made a fuss. They argued that their livestock needs water, even dirty water.

So the EPA made an exception, a loophole, for the arid West. If oil companies demonstrate that ranchers or wildlife use the water, the companies can release it.

Off the reservation, Western states get to decide what oil companies must do with wastewater; over time, states’ rules have become stricter than the EPA’s. Some states have all but outlawed dumping.

But on the Wind River Reservation, the EPA controls whether companies can release wastewater on a case-by-case basis.

The EPA refused multiple requests for interviews, but in a statement, the agency said it was evaluating the permits it gives some of the companies to expel this water on the reservation.

“EPA is reviewing new information associated with these permits and intends to meet with the Tribes in upcoming weeks to discuss next steps,” the statement reads.

The responses to NPR’s two Freedom of Information Act requests include emails between staffers, correspondence with the companies, results of water-quality tests, the permits, and documents justifying each permit. Most of this information had not been public before.

The documents show hints of mutiny inside the EPA. Some EPA staffers clearly are appalled by the wastewater releases.

One wrote in an email to colleagues: “Can we get together and discuss a strategic approach for sending our message of concern? I have attached pictures of this ridiculousness.” Another staffer warns that the chemicals in the water could have “irrevocable human health and environmental impacts.”

The documents also show recent detective work that some EPA staffers did to try to figure out what chemicals companies are putting in the water. Their research reveals that some of the waste streams sometimes include chemicals from hydraulic fracturing, an engineering technique designed to increase the flow of wells. They also include chemicals whose warning labels clearly state “toxic to aquatic organisms,” “prevent material from entering sewers or waterways,” and warnings about cancer and birth defects at low levels.

The documents suggest that at least some people inside the EPA are advocating for stricter rules. But much of this debate has been kept secret. The EPA refused to give NPR 757 documents about the loophole, claiming they can be kept secret because they are between the EPA and its attorneys or among EPA staffers.

... Some scientists were alarmed when they learned about the oil field wastewater releases, especially given that it is happening on tribal land.

“I was shocked when I heard this,” says Rob Jackson, a Duke University environmental scientist. “I was very surprised this was allowed. It’s just something that we should know better by now. We should know that dumping our waste onto the surface of the ground is a bad solution.”

Other experts agreed that the chemicals in the water raise concerns.

… Jackson reviewed many of the EPA documents released to NPR, including analyses of the chemicals in the wastewater streams and warning labels for some of the chemical treatments that companies add to the wells.

He stresses that they include hazardous air pollutants such as hydrochloric acid and naphthalene, and carcinogens like benzene and ethyl benzene.

“There are many things in this water that you don’t want in the environment or in people’s drinking water. You don’t need to be a genius to know this is a bad idea,” Jackson says.

He urges the EPA to consider the consequences of its policy and how it looks.

“Are we doing something on tribal lands we wouldn’t allow somewhere else? I think that’s something we have to be asking ourselves.”

... “Most of our elders were very trusting, very trusting people. They were glad they had the opportunity to get some revenue. Most of them were just thinking, ‘We’re being watched over, and things are being taken care of,’” says Martel, 65, who was in tribal government many years ago and was elected two years ago to return to government.

But in 2005, the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission sampled the water downstream of some of the oil fields. Researchers found toxic levels of some chemicals, stretches of streams that were lifeless, and streambeds splotched with black ooze, white crystals and purple growths. They recorded water temperatures as high as 125 degrees, and found dead ducklings, according to a draft report prepared by the tribes’ environmental department.

During tours of four of the oil fields earlier this fall, I witnessed visible violations of the plain language of the permits that the EPA gave these companies to discharge wastewater. For instance, I saw streambeds covered in white crystals and rock-like formations below outfall pipes. The permits prohibit visible deposits in the receiving waters or shoreline. They also prohibit any visible foam or sheen – I saw both. At the wastewater discharge site at one oil field, company officials warned us to leave after a few minutes because of the danger of respiratory distress or death from hydrogen sulfide fumes.

The companies were reluctant to talk. One agreed to meet at its oil field on the reservation but backed out the night before. Others failed to return multiple phone calls. Houston-based Marathon Oil Corporation, which runs three oil fields on the reservation, agreed to an interview but refused to be recorded.

“As far as I know, there has never been concerns and opposition for the quality of the water that I’m aware about,” says Bob Whisonant, Rocky Mountain operations manager for Marathon Oil, which has three oil fields on the reservation.

Whisonant stresses that the water from his oil fields meets EPA’s requirements.

“We’re really fortunate within Wyoming that the water is extremely fresh, very suitable for livestock and agriculture purposes. That’s why we’re able to discharge,” Whisonant says.

But the EPA’s permits, which are reissued every several years, tell a different story. Even the state of Wyoming, which is known to be pro-industry, questioned the fact that the EPA’s requirements didn’t seem to protect aquatic life. The EPA’s response was that the tribes had not adopted their own water quality standards.

The EPA permits acknowledge that oil field water may not meet the agency’s own water quality criteria.

The agency requires only minimal water testing at most of the oil fields, and it does not do its own testing to verify the companies’ claims; nor does it sample water quality in the streams receiving the wastewater.

In 2007, the EPA required one company to test aquatic animals to see if they’d die in the water flowing from one oil field – it’s a standard test of water quality known as whole effluent toxicity. The minnows and bugs in the sample died within an hour. The EPA asked the company to figure out what was killing the animals and propose remedies, but it let the company go on releasing the water for years. Five years later, the company, Marathon, says it is waiting for the EPA to OK a plan to lower high levels of sulfide in the water.

Wes Martel says he’s been pushing the EPA to thoroughly study the wastewater and then require the companies to purify it or inject it underground.

He worries about water quality and wildlife – and about food safety, too. Oil field water abounds on the reservation, and the cows that graze there will eventually end up on dinner plates.

… “You’ve got to wonder, what types of chemicals are those beef retaining? And when that goes to the slaughterhouse, what’s in your steak?“

But Eastern Shoshone member Darwin Griebel, one of a handful of ranchers whose livestock use the oil field water, pooh-poohs Martel’s concerns.

“Animals drink it. People aren’t going to drink it. Hell with the quality of the water,” says Griebel.

... But Martel says that if the EPA does not put a stop to this, the tribes will step in.

If the oil companies say that reinjecting or cleaning the water would be so expensive that it would no longer be profitable to pump oil, Martel knows what his response will be: “Good riddance.” ... more.



Raising Resistance – Global Day Of Action By Franklin Lopez, (2012)

Today Unist’ot’en allies are rising up in cities across North America, and around the world, to deliver a message to industry and government warning them to cease their trespass against sovereign Wet’suwet’en territory. The Global Day of Action is in response to an incident last week where Wet’suwet’en Chief Toghestiy intercepted and issued an eagle feather to surveyors from the Can-Am Geomatics company who were working for Apache’s proposed Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP).




Toxic Wastewater Dumped in Streets and Rivers at Night: Gas Profiteers Getting Away With Shocking Environmental Crimes

'Shipman showed the drivers how to leave open the gas well valves and ordered them to discharge production water onto the ground and/or into the nearby waterways.' 

By Aaron Skirboll, August 15, 2012, AlterNet  

Marking territory ...On March 17, 2011 Greene County resident Robert Allan Shipman and his company, Allan’s Waste Water Service Inc., were charged with illegally dumping millions of gallons of natural gas drilling wastewater, along with restaurant grease and sewer sludge across six counties in Pennsylvania from 2003-2009. Pennsylvania is one of several states that sit atop the gas-rich underground rock formation the Marcellus Shale. Hydraulic fracturing, the process used for retrieving the gas, is a water-intensive drilling method that not only requires massive volumes of water to unlock the gas, but also generates millions of gallons of wastewater when the drilling is done.  

The two-year investigation by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office resulted in a total of 98 criminal counts charged against the 50-year-old Shipman and an additional 77 charges levied at his company. Said Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, “He was pouring the stuff in any hole he could find.”

Most egregiously, the grand jury presentment detailed how when the demand for Allan’s Waste Water services grew in the summer of 2007, as a result of an uptick in production water (wastewater produced by gas well drilling operations that may contain toxic chemicals) from CNX Gas Co. LLP, a subsidiary of Consol Energy, a company Shipman was hauling for, “Shipman showed the drivers how to leave open the gas well valves and ordered them to discharge production water onto the ground and/or into the nearby waterways.” Drivers’ testimony added, “This activity would typically occur after dark or during heavy rain so that no one would observe the illegal discharge.” ... more.


Alberta Environment Investigation into Medicine Hat Sewer Explosion Results in Charges Against Oilfield Company 

qr77.com, Dec.12, 2011

A southern Alberta oilfield company has been charged in the release of flammable liquids into a city sewer system. Sonic Oilfield faces five counts of breaching provincial safety code rules after an Alberta Environment investigation.  More than 50 litres of a flammable substance were released into Medicine Hat's sewer system on June 9. That same day, a home exploded into flames and manhole covers shot into the air. Investigators found the blasts were caused by a combustible substance in the sewer.  An official with Sonic Oilfield declined comment. ... more.

Alberta Lays Environmental Charges Against Oilfield Company After Release Of Petroleum Product

The Alberta government did not say what the petroleum product was or how and where it was released.

By The Canadian Press, December 14, 2012, Times Colonist

The Alberta government has laid charges against a Medicine Hat oilfield service company under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

The charges stem from a joint investigation with the City of Medicine Hat’s Fire Department, Public Services Division and Environmental Utilities into a release of a volatile and highly flammable petroleum product in June 2011.

The Alberta government did not say what the petroleum product was or how and where it was released.

Sonic Oilfield Service Ltd. is charged with three counts of releasing or permitting the release of a substance into the environment that may cause a significant adverse effect.

Other charges include failing to report the release of a substance into the environment that may cause an adverse effect and improper disposal of waste.

The company’s first court appearance is set for Jan. 15 in Medicine Hat. The Alberta government did not say what the petroleum product was and how it was released.


Answers Wanted in Alberta

The Wise family is frustrated with getting no reasonable answers. They have become suspicious of vague answers and refusals to release water test results.

Source: ndonnawise.net - Click on photo for more information.By Sharon McLeay, September 28, 2012, Strathmore Times

Farmers have a connection with their land. The soil texture in their hand, the feel of the ground under their feet, the sight of the new shoots rising and the smell of the crop ripening is how the land communicates to them. To farmers the land is a living thing. When they give time and attention, God willing, the land gives back a livelihood.

When a four-foot berm, 60 feet long, rose up on the corner of Ken Wise’s property near Rockyford and started oozing grey sludge water, he listened. “Something has happened to our soil and land over the last three years,” said Wise.

“Water has never been there. In spring it runs to the pond and into the coulee. By July it dries up.” Now the water collects, doesn’t disappear, and recently developed gas like surface bubbles. He thought maybe oil well drilling or the test hydraulic fracturing that was conducted near their property might have altered something below ground. 

The Wise family is frustrated with getting no reasonable answers. They have become suspicious of vague answers and refusals to release water test results. They are discouraged by the way their concerns are being disregarded.

Photo : Ken Wise - Click on photo for more information.A recent incident of gas plant water effluent being sprayed on the road near their property just increased the frustration. They took water samples and requested Wheatland County take samples as well, to make sure there are no health risks. They appeared in Wheatland County Council on Sept. 18 to find out why results were not available to them and plead for County Councilors to take steps to curtail the indiscriminate disregard that some companies have for the farmers, their families and the land.

The Wise family is not alone in their concerns. Recently, several other farmers in the area have had land disturbances surface. 

There is no legislation municipally, provincially or federally on restricting mineral developments on private land. Under existing government guidelines farmers have the right to take issues to court, at their own expense. ... more here and much more here.


Photo: Ken Wise - Click on photo for more information.


Photo: Ken Wise - Click on photo for more information.



Dozens of Illegal Waste Dumpers Arraigned in Jim Wells County

Thirteen people pleaded guilty or no contest and 22 failed to appear and had warrants issued for their arrest

By Mark Collette, October 10, 2012, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Jim Wells County, Texas — More than 70 people were called in for arraignment in September on oil field waste and illegal dumping violations, Jim Wells County reported.

The charges are part of the county's effort to keep up with the huge increase in heavy truck traffic throughout the area as part of the drilling boom in the Eagle Ford Shale formation.

Nearly half of the charges were for illegal disposal of oil field waste or using an unmarked vehicle to transport waste.

Thirteen people pleaded guilty or no contest and 22 failed to appear and had warrants issued for their arrest ... more.



Caught On Tape: Chemical Dumping in the Bakken Area--North Dakota (2011)




 LIPG Toxic Waste Dumped in Rocky View County

... a charge the LIPG do not deny, but say it was an ‘isolated incident.’

CAUS Holds Second Meeting To Address Fracking 

By Derek Clouthier, Oct 03, 2012, Cochrane Eagle

... Another claim brought to the attention of attendees during the CAUS meeting was the allegation that the group had caught an LIPG member company dumping frack fluid – water treated with a series of chemicals and pumped into the ground to fracture underlying rock to release oil and/or gas – onto the road and into a ditch…a charge the LIPG do not deny, but say it was an ‘isolated incident.’

“A trucking company driver, contracted by one of the member companies, did not follow proper company policy and government regulation,” said the LIPG. “The incident involved a truck driver stopping and draining what he thought was excess fresh water on the county road. Unfortunately, the driver was not aware that the tank had been used to transfer oil within the trucking company’s yard prior to being loaded with fresh water, and as a result, a trace of oil remained in the tank.”  

... more.




Comment from resident who provided pictures of the dumping: 

I realize, "we've been fracking for 60 years," so where has the dumper been working that he would think this was "fresh water?" After attending this site, it's hard to believe "the driver was not aware" of the black and foul smelling goop he laid out all the way to the intersection.  

If this is how the LIPG defines "stopping and draining" and "trace," then to prevent any further surprises, perhaps they could provide more of their definitions, with pictures, and post them to their websites.  

This was nasty, with a diesel-like stench permeating the air and it was rather challenging taking these photos with the regulator and company "emergency response plan" responders swarming the site. If you look really closely, you won't see them - perhaps due to their transparency.

These photos were taken almost two days after the dump, and with no responders or regulator present, no warning signs posted, nothing stopping people from driving or walking through it, thank goodness the dumper, or anyone else, didn't toss a cigarette or cause a spark. So why didn't our "world-class" regulations prevent this?  And will we ever know what was actually dumped here?  Pathetic.  

Feb. 2012 - Oilfield Waste Dumping - Rocky View County, Alberta Canada - LIPG member company, NAL, attempted to clean it up as a 'good neighbor' gesture.  

February 2012 - Same LIPG mess. 


Rocky View County Community Cornerstone to Hold Annual Watch-Where-You  Walk-A-Thon

'I know there are children who go to the school and are walking with their parents who once walked it themselves as kids'

Westbrook Walking For Cash

By Lindsay Seewalt, September 19, 2012, The Cochrane Eagle

Walk out, Westbrook.

With one foot in front of the next, some 170 kids, accompanied by 50 parents and school staff members will venture out Sept. 21.

The main fundraiser for various school improvements and activities, the annual Walk-a-thon will see Westbrook kids gathering pledges — an undertaking that garnered some $22,000 last year.

'We are so grateful to everyone who helps out year after year,' said parent volunteer coordinator, Lisa Gillett.

'I know there are children who go to the school and are walking with their parents who once walked it themselves as kids,' she said of the long-standing community school tradition.

Kindergarten-Grade 3 will walk 12 kilometre and Grades 4-8 will journey for 15 km ... more.


Hill Admitted That He Knew Of No Toxic Fluids "That Are Prohibited" In The Province

... A 2011 US Congress report disclosed that fracking fluids can include coffee grinds, salt, ceramic balls, walnut hulls, lead, petroleum distillates, methanol, (a dirty air pollutant) benzene, toluene, xylene and millions of gallons of diesel. Many are proven cancer-makers.

Moreover, Hill admitted that he knew of no toxic fluids "that are prohibited" in the province. Many jurisdictions, for example, banned diesel fuel as a fracking fluid years ago to protect groundwater. ... more.



Omnibudget Could Have An Impact On Fracking Chemical Exemptions

The agency and its mandate would no longer be independent or arms-length and would come under the purview of a federal government that has failed to regulate the fracking industry and prioritize water and environment protection as well as public health.

By Emma Lui, October 19, 2012, Rabble.ca
The omnibudget “amends the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act to transfer the powers and functions of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission to the Minister of Health and to repeal provisions of that Act that are related to the Commission.”
A part of the mandate of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission is to “to formally register claims for trade-secret exemptions and issue registry numbers.” In the Canada Gazette, there are a whole slew of companies that are seeking exemptions from the Hazardous Materials Information review Act. In particular they’ve filed claims for exemptions “from the disclosure of supplier confidential business information in respect of a controlled product” which would normally be required under the Hazardous Products Act. In the September 22, 2012 notice, one of the companies is fracking company Calfrac Well Services Ltd. which has four claims for exemptions on the chemical identity and concentration of seven ingredients.
There are serious concerns about how carefully and stringently these exemptions can be assessed if they are transferred over to Health Canada given that Health Canada underwent serious budget and staffing cuts last year.

The agency and its mandate would no longer be independent or arms-length and would come under the purview of a federal government that has failed to regulate the fracking industry and prioritize water and environment protection as well as public health. ... more.


Rachelle Van Zanten - My Country (2011)

She was invited to perform it for the Tahltan people at the Iskut Music Festival a year later, where we filmed this video.

Fracking Ban In Sacred Headwaters Set To Expire Dec. 18

… On Friday morning the Senate approved Bill C-45, the omnibus bill, which included provisions to eliminate the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. This was the body responsible for, among other things, monitoring chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations like the Shell project in the Sacred Headwaters.

By Jimmy Thomson, December 14, 2012, The Tyee.ca
A moratorium on a large coal bed methane project in northern B.C. is about to expire. The moratorium has prevented Shell Canada from conducting “any oil and gas activity or related activity” in the Sacred Headwaters project since December 2008, according to the original Order in Council.
While First Nations, environmental groups, and the provincial NDP are calling for the moratorium to be extended, negotiations around the future of the area between Shell, First Nations and local stakeholders are ongoing, a spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Natural Resources confirmed.
The spokesperson would not comment on the nature of the discussions, saying that further details would be made available when an agreement is reached.
The project is located in Tahltan First Nation territory. Anita McPhee, president of the Tahltan Central Council, also would not comment on any negotiations with the province, but said she is determined to protect the Sacred Headwaters.
“We’re not going to stop until there is permanent protection in the Klappan.”
The Klappan, as the Sacred Headwaters basin is sometimes known, is located at the head of the Skeena, Stikine, and Nass rivers.
... The original government document that ordered the moratorium has provisions for Shell to have resumed operations two years after the moratorium was issued, as early as 2010. This was on the conditions that the company first conduct an assessment of the impact the operation would have on water quality, that First Nations and other local communities be provided with sufficient information on coal bed methane extraction, and that this all be done to the satisfaction of the minister.

… On Friday morning the Senate approved Bill C-45, the omnibus bill, which included provisions to eliminate the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. This was the body responsible for, among other things, monitoring chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations like the Shell project in the Sacred Headwaters.

Disclosure of the composition of the chemicals used in fracking is mandatory in B.C. as of April 1, 2012, and the registry is publicly available. However, many chemicals can be protected as trade secrets.

The HMIRC’s responsibilities will be transferred to Health Canada, which in April announced that it would be cutting 840 jobs. ... more.



The Big Secret? Fracking Fluids

The modus operandi of the gas industry is tied to non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements, making research into the health effects of fracking virtually impossible.  

In a world where we insist on evidence-based medicine, we prohibit this when it comes to gas drilling chemicals.

By Walter Tsou, MD, MPH, June 18, 2012, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Environmental Health Policy Institute

In 2008, Cathy Behr, a Colorado emergency room nurse at Durango Mercy Regional Medical Center was working the day shift when a gas driller worker, Clinton Marshall, arrived complaining of nausea and headaches. Marshall had spilled “fracturing fluid” on his clothes and boots and the smell apparently was overpowering and sufficiently strong that they evacuated the emergency room. Cathy Behr, without protection, had meanwhile spent just ten minutes tending to Mr. Marshall.

A few days after this ER visit, Behr appeared jaundiced and began vomiting fluid and having difficulty breathing. Behr’s husband took her back to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with multiple organ failure, including liver failure, respiratory distress and erratic blood counts.  She was admitted to the ICU with the presumptive diagnosis of poisoning from an unknown chemical.

The chemical was and is still considered to be a proprietary formula by the producer, Halliburton, a gas industry leader. It was later revealed to be a product with the trade name, Zetaflow. Halliburton noted that Zetaflow increases gas production by 30% and threatened that it would pull its secret sauce out of Colorado if it was forced to reveal what was in it.

You have to wonder why any environmental agency would allow a toxic chemical formula like Zetaflow to be injected into the ground, knowing that backflow and impoundment lagoons of fracking fluid result in chemicals wafting through the air, potentially exposing anyone who comes near. And you would not want to take a risk that this could leak into your ground water, permanently contaminating a water source for future generations.

... Mark Smith, Chairman of Bradford County (PA) Commissioners, in one of the most heavily drilled counties in the state, wrote to the Governor in April 2011 that “the economic benefit of this development is unquestionable. However, it is also unquestionable that when left unattended, the negatives outweigh the positives quickly and heavily.”

Act 13, a bill largely written by the gas industry, creates a small impact fee (they can’t call it a “tax”) collected on behalf of impacted local counties and townships. In exchange, local zoning restrictions on the gas industry are preempted and certain environmental setbacks are weakened.  A part of this bill inserted at the last minute is called the “gag clause.” Applicable to attending physicians, it requires a written promise of nondisclosure from doctors in order to learn the identity of proprietary chemicals used by the gas industry. This information cannot be shared with anyone else in the public. In the case of an emergency, such as Cathy Behr’s case, doctors can learn about the chemicals verbally from a phone call after signing a written agreement.

The logistics of implementing this part of the law is a legal quagmire waiting to happen. For example, how does one promptly get information from the gas drilling company about proprietary chemicals in the timely fashion necessary to treat a sick and maybe dying patient, if the company first has to approve written letters, activate verification procedures, and secure legal and corporate approval? Even in the case of a phone call, how does this happen, when at a minimum, the law requires a written confidentiality agreement?

Furthermore, what does it mean that the information cannot be shared publicly? The PA Medical Society asked the PA Secretary of Health for clarification. The Secretary subsequently stated that, “inherent in (physicians’) right to receive this (proprietary) information is the ability to share the information with the patient, with other physicians, and providers including specialists assisting and involved with the care of the patient. Further, reporting and information sharing with public health and regulatory agencies such as the Department of Health is necessary and permitted.” While the Secretary may write this, the law is not clear and offers no protection for a physician who consults others with the information about the chemical. And given charting practices, would it be legal or illegal to write the name of the chemical in the medical chart, assuming that only those caring for the patient are entitled to read the chart? It will take a lawsuit to sort this out.

The law exempts gas companies from disclosing the nature of contaminants from fracking flowback which are often laden with toxic heavy metals or radioactive isotopes. The modus operandi of the gas industry is tied to non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements, making research into the health effects of fracking virtually impossible. In a world where we insist on evidence-based medicine, we prohibit this when it comes to gas drilling chemicals. Is it any wonder that political apologists believe that fracking is safe? Or that many health professionals believe that fracking is unsafe? ... more. 


Fracking: Pennsylvania Gags Physicians

By Walter Brasch, March 18, 2012, The Public Record, Part One of a Three-Part Series.

A new Pennsylvania law endangers public health by forbidding health care professionals from sharing information they learn about certain chemicals and procedures used in high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

The procedure is commonly known as fracking.

... The law, an amendment to Title 52 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, requires that companies provide to a state-maintained registry the names of chemicals and gases used in fracking.
Physicians and others who work with citizen health issues may request specific information, but the company doesn’t have to provide that information if it claims it is a trade secret or proprietary information, nor does it have to reveal how the chemicals and gases used in fracking interact with natural compounds.
If a company does release information about what is used, health care professionals are bound by a non-disclosure agreement that not only forbids them from warning the community of water and air pollution that may be caused by fracking, but which also forbids them from telling their own patients what the physician believes may have led to their health problems. A strict interpretation of the law would also forbid general practitioners and family practice physicians who sign the non-disclosure agreement and learn the contents of the “trade secrets” from notifying a specialist about the chemicals or compounds, thus delaying medical treatment.
The clauses are buried on pages 98 and 99 of the 174-page bill, which was initiated and passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed into law in February by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
“I have never seen anything like this in my 37 years of practice,” says Dr. Helen Podgainy, a pediatrician from Coraopolis, Pa. She says it’s common for physicians, epidemiologists, and others in the health care field to discuss and consult with each other about the possible problems that can affect various populations. Her first priority, she says, “is to diagnose and treat, and to be proactive in preventing harm to others.” The new law, she says, not only “hinders preventative measures for our patients, it slows the treatment process by gagging free discussion.”

Psychologists are also concerned about the effects of fracking and the law’s gag order. “We won’t know the extent of patients becoming anxious or depressed because of a lack of information about the fracking process and the chemicals used,” says Kathryn Vennie of Hawley, Pa., a clinical psychologist for 30 years. She says she is already seeing patients “who are seeking support because of the disruption to their environment.” Anxiety in the absence of information, she says, “can produce both mental and physical problems.”

The law is not only “unprecedented,” but will “complicate the ability of health department to collect information that would reveal trends that could help us to protect the public health,” says Dr. Jerome Paulson, director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Paulson, also professor of pediatrics at George Washington University, calls the law “detrimental to the delivery of personal health care and contradictory to the ethical principles of medicine and public health.”

Physicians, he says, “have a moral and ethical responsibility to protect the health of the public, and this law precludes us from doing all we can to protect the public.” He has called for a moratorium on all drilling until the health effects can be analyzed. 

Pennsylvania requires physicians to report to the state instances of 73 specific diseases, most of which are infectious diseases. However, the list also includes cancer, which may have origins not only from chemicals used to create the fissures that yield natural gas, but also in the blow-back of elements, including arsenic, present within the fissures. Thus, physicians are faced by conflicting legal and professional considerations.
“The confidentiality agreements are worrisome,” says Peter Scheer, a journalist/lawyer who is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition.

Physicians who sign the non-disclosure agreements and then disclose the possible risks to protect the community can be sued for breech of contract, and the companies can seek both injunctions and damages, says Scheer ... more.



Doctor Intimidation In Alberta

Some doctors said they were threatened with losing their jobs or their hospital privileges, and had their mental competency questioned, simply for critiquing the system on behalf of their patients.

Others were labelled “negative” or “misinformed,” and told to stop speaking out of turn. “A culture of fear, intimidation, apathy, elitism and manipulation exists and has existed for some time,” said one respondent.

Another described the culture in Alberta healthcare as one of systemic harassment and intimidation, with a negative effect on patient safety.

“Even rumours of intimidation were enough to stop some doctors from advocating“ 

Doctor Intimidation

By Larry Johnsrude, November 1, 2012, albertaviews

As the new head of the provincial tuberculosis program in 1987, Dr. Anne Fanning had every reason to look forward to a full and rewarding career as a clinical physician, researcher and professor at the University of Alberta. “When I started, there was a collegial relationship between physicians and management people and bureaucrats,” says the Order of Canada recipient and expert on communicable disease. “We had a really good relationship.”

But that changed after Ralph Klein became premier and started his war on the deficit. Fanning remembers, in a meeting with her superiors, asking some discomforting questions about how staff reductions and other changes would affect the TB program. “It was made clear that this conflicted with the bunch of bureaucrats from Alberta Health whose obligation was to the [cost-saving] mandate,” she says. The effect of the cuts was devastating. “In the TB clinic, I would often be there until 2:00 in the morning reading X-rays,” she says. “And then I’d be told, ‘You aren’t going along with the new vision.’ I had to ask myself ‘Who needs this?’”

Her program funding slashed, and feeling effectively pushed out, Fanning left Alberta in 1995 and went to Geneva to work with the World Health Organization. She eventually returned to Alberta and is now retired. She says she often reflects on what went wrong. “I think part of the problem was that everything was done in a panic… rather than being based on evidence,” she says. “On one side, you had a group of medical professionals who were committed to excellence, [who were] objective and hard working. They were stuck against the MBAs with a totally different way of doing things. It was very, very destructive. How could anybody be confident in what the government was doing?”

Turns out Dr. Fanning wasn’t the only one with concerns. Many other Alberta doctors have since spoken up about reprisals for advocating for their patients, and about the corrosive effect on the healthcare system. A recent study by the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) found widespread bullying and intimidation of physicians in the workplace. Like many doctors who were either drummed out of their jobs or reluctantly chose to remain and put up with a toxic atmosphere, Fanning is anxious to find out how the Alberta government plans to respond.

The issue of doctor intimidation in Alberta really came to the fore when the Alberta Medical Association, representing the province’s nearly 10,000 doctors, published a letter in 2010 warning of the “potential catastrophic collapse” of ERs. The letter included a list of some 330 patients at the University of Alberta Hospital whose care had been compromised by prolonged waits.

The HQCA investigation was launched in spring 2011. Initially intended to review the quality of care and safety of patients, it was expanded to cover doctor intimidation, thanks to the efforts of a physician-turned-politician who says he was a victim of bullying himself. Dr. Raj Sherman, a part-time ER doctor who now leads the provincial Liberals, set off a firestorm as an independent MLA when he charged in the legislature that numerous doctors were forced from their jobs by overbearing senior officials, and that the province secretly paid millions of dollars to buy doctors’ silence. He also made explosive (and unproven) claims that 250 cancer patients had died waiting for treatment.

These allegations were followed by media reports of a lawsuit initiated by lung-cancer specialist Dr. Ciaran McNamee, who says he was forced from his job for speaking out on behalf of his patients. McNamee had been head of thoracic surgery at the Capital Health Authority in Edmonton. Despite accolades from his peers and bosses for his contributions to lung-cancer research and treatment, he ran afoul of senior bureaucrats early in his tenure. In a 1999 presentation to the Conservative caucus, he raised concerns about inadequate resources for thoracic surgery patients. That, according to his statement of claim, prompted a torrent of letters of reprimand from his immediate superiors, saying his advocacy would not be tolerated.

A year later, McNamee was removed as section head of thoracic surgery. His lawsuit alleges his superiors “falsely and maliciously” told colleagues and CHA administrators that he was unfit to practise and should be suspended. His clinical skills were questioned. Senior officials urged his wife and his secretary to get him into emergency psychiatric care. By the end of the year, his lawsuit says, the Capital Health Authority and U of A Hospital had forced him to withdraw from clinical practice as well as from his teaching and administrative duties, which effectively ended his $500,000-a-year career. “The false and malicious statements… were calculated to adversely affect Dr. McNamee’s ability to practise medicine and to cause pecuniary damage to Dr. McNamee,” says his statement of claim.

McNamee’s lawsuit, initiated in 2002 and settled out of court in 2006 for an undisclosed sum, included a non-disclosure agreement. When it became public last year, the Conservatives dismissed it as an isolated personnel matter. But when a growing chorus of physicians started speaking out about experiences similar to McNamee’s, the government was forced to act. Numerous health stakeholders called for an independent judicial inquiry, as did the Wildrose, Liberal and NDP parties. So did Alison Redford during the 2011 Tory leadership race. But then-Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky decided instead to ask the HQCA—which reports to the governing party, not the legislature—to conduct an investigation.

The HQCA released its report in February 2012. It confirmed what Fanning, Sherman, McNamee and others were saying. The council surveyed 7,957 physicians across the province to gain insight into their experiences. Some 26 per cent responded. Of those, 51 per cent felt their ability to advocate on behalf of patients had been limited in the past year. One in five said they experienced “active harmful obstruction” of their ability to advocate, and 37 per cent cited some form of negative outcome, including 10 per cent who said their requests were simply ignored.

Some doctors said they were threatened with losing their jobs or their hospital privileges, and had their mental competency questioned, simply for critiquing the system on behalf of their patients. Others were labelled “negative” or “misinformed,” and told to stop speaking out of turn. “A culture of fear, intimidation, apathy, elitism and manipulation exists and has existed for some time,” said one respondent. Another described the culture in Alberta healthcare as one of systemic harassment and intimidation, with a negative effect on patient safety. “Even rumours of intimidation were enough to stop some doctors from advocating,“ the report says.

... What the HQCA report doesn’t look at is the effect of losing some of Alberta’s foremost physicians. When Dr. McNamee was recruited in 1996, he was among a number of internationally renowned specialists lured to Alberta as part of an aggressive campaign by health regions to create world-class centres of excellence across the province. Capital Health Authority had the ambitious goal of reinventing itself as a Mayo Clinic North.

Alberta Health projected in its 1996 annual report that patient-reported satisfaction with the healthcare system would be at 75 per cent in just a few years, up from 59 per cent that year. Yet satisfaction currently languishes around 62 per cent. Other performance measures are faring just as dismally. Health expenditures have continued to rise, with no apparent improvements. Per capita spending on health in Alberta is now the highest in the country. ER wait times are longer than ever and emergency rooms are just as crowded as they’ve ever been. Wait times for procedures such as hip replacements, cornea transplants and heart surgery haven’t improved significantly.

The vital question is whether years of threats, intimidation, bullying and a toxic work environment have had an effect on patient care. The HQCA was unable to find any specific cases of an individual’s health and safety being jeopardized. But its report strongly linked physician intimidation to lengthy ER waits. ER performance “is the ‘canary in the coal mine’ of overall healthcare performance,” it says. Adds Dr. Cowell: “Emergency wait times are an important [determinant] of the well-being of citizens… When something affects morale, it also affects the ability of physicians to perform at an optimum.”

And although he found no evidence of 250 cancer patients dying while waiting for surgery, Dr. Cowell did find cancer wait times in Edmonton’s Capital Health Region were longer than in the rest of the province. He suggests that could be linked to the departure of specialists such as Dr. McNamee. Dr. Sherman, however, argues that there’s a direct link. He points to a study in the medical journal The Lancet which says that Alberta trails the nation with its lung cancer survival rate. He blames the loss of top physicians.

He also says Alberta has difficulty recruiting medical professionals because of the toxic culture in healthcare: “Top doctors are staying away when they find out what happened to people like Dr. McNamee.” ... more.








Attempting to cru$ify one deadly addiction, while ble$$ing another.














LIPG Strives to put Fracking Concerns to Bed

'There’s a lot of fear and hysteria that’s been created to a certain extent for really no reason'

By Derek Clouthier, February 29, 2012, Cochrane Eagle

... During a time that has seen a surge of drilling activity in the region, it is understandable that local residents could feel some apprehension and confusion toward the ever-increasing presence of oil and gas companies rolling into their backyards.

The majority of the incoming companies make up the Lochend Industry Producers Group (LIPG), which consists of five energy businesses; Equal Energy, NAL Resources, PetroBakken Energy, Tamarack Valley Energy and TriOil Resources.

On Feb. 24, four representatives from the LIPG and its affiliated companies made themselves available to address several concerns floating around in the public with regards to hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as ‘fracking.’

One of the main areas of distress stems from a fear that fresh water supplies are being put at risk by the chemicals found in the fluid that is being used for fracking operations – a fear they would like to put to bed.

... The actual chemicals used in frack fluid along with the air of secrecy that surrounds them has been paramount to the public criticism voiced thus far.

'There’s a lot of fear and hysteria that’s been created to a certain extent for really no reason,' said Berg.

The ERCB, Alberta’s regulating body for the oil and gas industry, is working to launch an initiative to disclose what chemicals are being used by all frack companies, and the LIPG is prepared to reveal that list when the time comes, which, according to NAL’s drilling and completions worker Clive Mountford, is expected to be by the end of the year.

November 2011 - Methanol on frack truck near Cochrane, Alberta. 600 litres?'We will go through the disclosure process once the board gets it organized in terms of how to do it,' Berg indicated. 'The recipe itself is proprietary in terms of there are some advantages (and) competition between different frack companies in terms of what the recipe is, and that’s why people don’t want to disclose that to all their competitors, so there’s some element of competition involved in that.'

In order for a fracking operation to be carried out, certain chemicals, such as a jelling agent, must be used to thicken the water – guar beans being the most commonly used ingredient.

'It has ten times the thickening property of cornstarch,' said Trican’s VP of Marketing, Dave Browne. “That’s the primary thing we use in the frack fluid and at one time we had a few additives in there that we don’t need so we removed those.

'One of the common additives that we’ve removed in the last few years is either methanol or glycol that was used to stop the product from freezing. We’ve got heated chemical carriers now, so we’ve eliminated a lot of those chemicals.' ... more.


The Potent Mixture Behind Fracking Fluids

By Carrie Tait, September 6, 2012, The Globe and Mail Report on Business

You can find guar gum in barbeque sauce, ice cream, chocolate milk and cheese. You can find in it face creams, shaving cream and toothpaste. And you can find plenty of it in the oil patch, where guar bean gum serves as one of the most common frack fluid additives.

Trican Well Service Ltd. , Canada’s largest pressure-pumping outfit with operations around the globe, buys guar bean gum powder, which looks and acts like cornstarch, from India. The Calgary-based company says guar gum is the frack fluid additive it uses most, as well as the most cost-effective thickener.

Hydraulic fracturing companies use dozens of additives – plenty of which are harmful chemicals – when trying to crack rocks below the surface so the oil and natural gas trapped inside them can escape. Water is the No. 1 ingredient in frack fluid, and the additives – used to control the fluid’s viscosity, carry sand, kill bacteria, and perform other functions – are a key part of the rock fracturing process. The recipes change depending on geology.

Fracking is not a drilling technique. Instead, the process happens after wells have been drilled and lined with multiple layers of cement and steel casing near groundwater, and at least one layer throughout the rest of the well.

In short, hydraulic fracturing involves pumping frack fluid, sand, and sometimes nitrogen, down a well at extreme pressures, forcing fissures in rocks that are otherwise impermeable. Frack fluid goes first. So-called “slick water” fracks, which dominate the Marcellus play in Pennsylvania, use less additives and are therefore relatively cheap. Slick water frack fluid feels like slimy water, has the viscosity of milk, and sports a yellowish tinge.

The fluids used in so-called foam fracks and gelled water fracks are thicker – indeed, the stuff is nicknamed “ploppy gel” because of the way it would splatter if it hit the ground. Ploppy gel feels silky, and the off-white colour changes depending on the additive blend. If the snotty mixture is poured from a beaker, it moves as a blob rather than stream of water. Guar gum is used in gelled water fracks. ... more.


Fracking vs. Ice Cream

Guar gum is also celebrated in arguments about the safety of fracking. After all, as one industry professional put it to Time,  "‘The companies can say: ‘We are using stuff they put in ice cream!’" ... more.

Guar Gum Powder — Guar Gum is a unique substance derived from the Guar plant, with numerous usages.

Primarily, there are two types of Guar Gum being used these days.

First is the food grade Guar Gum that is used as a national food thickener in ice creams, cakes and other confectionary items.

Second is the industrial grade Guar Gum used across various industries like oil well drilling, paper, textiles, batteries, explosives, mining and many more. When it comes to well drilling, Guar Gum works as an excellent additive for drilling fluids and mud on account of some unique characteristics it possesses. Some of these include:

The industrial grade powdered Guar Gum can be effectively used in the fracturing of oil wells, stimulation of oil wells, for mud drilling, and also as a stabilizing, thickening and suspending agent for drilling fluids. It is fast hydrating and highly dispersing in nature and is also diesel slurriable. Specifically in the oil field domain, Guar Gum is being increasingly used as a deformer, a synthetic polymer and also a surfactant for all types of rheological needs with respect to brine based as well as water based drilling fluids. Guar Gum is also used as a viscosity enhancer for maintaining the viscosity levels of the drilling mud, thus enabling the drilling fluids to move the drill waste from the deepest of holes. Guar Gum based compounds also help in reducing friction in the holes, minimizing the requirement of power. They also help in minimizing water loss. ... more.

Crosslinking Guar

Guar molecules have a tendency to aggregate during the hydraulic fracturing process, mainly due to intermolecular hydrogen bonding. These aggregates are detrimental to oil recovery because they clog the fractures, restricting the flow of oil. Cross-linking guar polymer chains prevents aggregation by forming metal – hydroxyl complexes.

The first crosslinked guar gels were developed in the late ‘60’s. Several metal additives have been used for crosslinking, among them are chromium, aluminum, antimony, zirconium, and the more commonly used, boron. ... more.


TECHNICAL MEMORANDUM Review of DRAFT: Investigation of Ground Water Contamination near Pavillion Wyoming

... a BTEX mixture had been used in the fracking fluid as a breaker and a diesel oil mixture was used in guar polymer slurry

Prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency

Prepared by Tom Myers Ph.D., April 30, 2012

The EPA found in the monitoring wells significant concentrations of isopropanol, diethylene glycol, triethylene glycol, and tert-butyl alcohol (TBA) (in MW02). TBA was not directly used as a fracking fluid, but “is a known breakdown product of methyl tert-butyl ether and tert-butyl hydroperoxide”.

… EPA detected benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX), trimethylbenzenes, and naphthalene at MW02 (EPA, p 35). They detected gasoline and diesel range organics at both monitoring wells (Id.). These are not found in drilling additives, but the MSDSs showed a long list of additives in the fracking fluid that could be the source of the contamination just cited (EPA p 35, 36).

For example, a BTEX mixture had been used in the fracking fluid as a breaker and a diesel oil mixture was used in guar polymer slurry (Id.). EPA rejects alternative explanations that claim that substances, used on the well or pump, caused these contaminant detections. Specifically, the agency points out that the contact time for water with the well or pump during purging and sampling would be so low that contamination would be unlikely, especially after purging.

… The fracking that occurs in the Pavillion gas field directly injects fracking fluid into an underground source of drinking water. Fracking occurs as little as 150 m below the bottom of the deeper water wells.

… Many shallow water wells have gas concentrations that exceed expected background levels.

EPA also uses several lines of reasoning to conclude that gas has migrated to domestic wells from the fracked zones, in addition to or instead of it occurring naturally in those wells. Isotopic composition of gas samples from shallow wells, deeper monitoring wells and produced gas are all similar in that all have a thermogenic origin. ... more.


ERCB Advises Residents Fix The Problem, Recommends Do-It-Yourself Sour Gas / Methane Venting 

... a report confirmed the well is suffering 'thermogenic impact' from deep source gases that are being tapped into by energy companies in the area.

By Lana Michelin - Red Deer Advocate, December 26, 2011

Ponoka-area cattle farmers say their water well is getting increasingly more contaminated with 'extremely explosive and deadly' hydrocarbons and sour gas - and Alberta's energy regulator isn't acting quickly enough to protect them.

Shawn and Ronalie Campbell are concerned that their water well is now 10 times as polluted as when it was tested several years ago.

The couple haven’t been using the contaminated well on their property for drinking, but only stopped showering and laundering clothes in the water this fall when the latest test results became known.

Explosive methane and other associated hydrocarbon gases in the Campbells’ water well were shown to have increased to 500,000 parts per million in testing done last July.

Ronalie said recently that this compares to 87,900 ppm in 2009, 67,900 ppm in 2007, and 7,840 ppm in 2006.

Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) was recently found to be at 88.5 ppm in July, compared to 9.9 ppm in 2006.  

The current rate is more than eight times higher than the safe level, which is below 10 ppm, said Ronalie, who believes the depth of the contamination indicates it was caused by oil and gas activity in the area.  

But the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) sees no evidence of this.

'Fingerprint' testing conducted on nine oil and gas wells operating in the vicinity showed no exact match with the hydrocarbons found in the Campbell’s well, said ERCB spokesperson Darin Barter, who added, 'There’s no direct link.' 

Ronalie disagrees, saying a report confirmed the well is suffering 'thermogenic impact' from deep source gases that are being tapped into by energy companies in the area.

... "I don’t care what energy well it is, at this point. We know it’s from an energy source, so they should say, ‘All of you have to clean this up,’ ” added Ronalie, who’s disappointed by the ERCB’s position.

She’s particularly upset that the ERCB is advising them to fix the problem, instead of industry doing it.

One suggestion from the energy regulator is that the Campbells should build a venting shed to heat the well water, allowing noxious gases to evaporate into the atmosphere. But Ronalie isn’t even sure it would be legal to vent such concentrated poisonous gases.

'What if somebody got knocked out walking by?'

She noted the sour gas would be particularly dangerous if inhaled. And methane is explosive, said Ronalie, adding a venting shed blew up in Northern Alberta.

... This is a case of the regulator protecting industry instead of the public, she said.

... He disagrees that the ERCB isn’t doing enough for the Campbells, saying that ongoing testing was offered of their contaminated water well.

But Ronalie said the well has been studied long enough and action is needed. ... more.


Technical Memorandum on Assessment of Groundwater Sampling Results Completed by the U.S. Geological Survey

The gas in MW01 is thermogenic, and its concentration is increasing.  An increasing concentration of thermogenic gas suggests its source is the formation rather than a leaky gas well. … If the formation is the source, the gas contamination will continue as long as the source releases gas.

By Tom Myers, Ph.D., September 30, 2012
The organic chemistry at MW01 has not changed substantially since the EPA sampled the well; some constituents have increased and some have decreased, as would be expected with organic contaminants discharging from a series of event, the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells.  Because the water chemistry data at MW01 has essentially been replicated, the evidence supporting the hypothesis that natural gas drilling activities, including fracking, have contaminated the Wind River aquifer near Pavillion WY has been strengthened.  The conclusions based on that analysis should be more widely accepted now that the water quality has been replicated.
The concentrations of gas, including methane and ethane, have increased and that of propane has remained relatively constant.  The ratio of ethane and propane to methane and the isotopic signature of methane all indicate that the gas source is thermogenic, meaning a deep formation.  An increasing concentration indicates the formation is likely the source because the concentration will increase as more of the formation contributes to gas at the monitoring well.
... This memorandum takes the USGS study an additional step by comparing the results released in the new study with the original EPA report (EPA 2011).  It considers whether the new data refutes the original EPA study, either with the actual chemistry data collected or by showing problems with EPA monitoring well 2.
… The USGS did not sample exactly the same constituents as did the EPA.  The USGS sampled many constituents and their Table 7 lists many that had below detect (ND) levels, as did the EPA.
… The concentrations of potassium (K) and the pH level are still much higher than the background levels in the formation, although K has decreased since the EPA sampling.  EPA linked the presence of potassium to its use as a crosslinker and solvent during fracking, according to the Material Data Safety Sheets provided by the industry.  
Most of the fracking occurred several years ago, therefore the source is not a continuous release.  A relatively conservative element such as potassium could move through the aquifer much more quickly than some of the organics.
Gasoline range organics and the various carbon-chain gases were found at concentrations that have increased significantly since the EPA study.  Benzoic acid was found at concentrations similar to the EPA (2011).  Diesel range organics and phenol remained present but at lower concentrations. The USGS found at least nine organic constituents that the EPA had either not found or not tested for.  USGS found acrylonitrile at 21 ug/l in one of the replicate samples, not presented in Table 1.  At least six constituents that had been detected by the EPA (2011) were not detected by the USGS.  At least six constituents that EPA has found at various concentrations were not tested for by the USGS.  The concentration of organics at Pavillion should vary for several reasons.
Changes from one sampling event to the next do not represent a trend.  A non-detect does not prove the constituent does not exist.
Organics attenuate by interactions with clay and silt sized particles so seasonal changes could be expected.  This sampling occurred during late April, a time period during which recharge should be highest, since there is a mound in the shallow groundwater suggesting downward movement of water.  Such vertical flow could dilute the formation water and cause seasonal changes not accounted for in spot samples as collected by the USGS.
The concentration of methane and ethane increased substantially and that of propane remained relatively constant.  The stable isotope ratios of carbon vs. hydrogen in methane are also almost exactly as found by the EPA.

The gas in MW01 is thermogenic, and its concentration is increasing.  An increasing concentration of thermogenic gas suggests its source is the formation rather than a leaky gas well.

… If the formation is the source, the gas contamination will continue as long as the source releases gas. ... more.


Hydrofracked? One Man's Mystery Leads To A Backlash Against Natural Gas Drilling

EnCana also took samples of Meeks' water, had them tested, and said that it found nothing.


Louis Meeks’ well water contains methane gas, hydrocarbons, lead and copper, according to the EPA’s test results. When he drilled a new water well, it also showed contaminants. The drilling company EnCana is supplying Meeks with drinking water. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

By Abrahm Lustgarten, February 25, 2011, Propublica

There are few things a family needs to survive more than fresh drinking water. And Louis Meeks, a burly, jowled Vietnam War Hero who had long ago planted his roots on these sparse eastern Wyoming grasslands, was drilling a new well in search of it.
... 'I was doing anything I could to get help ... I'd try to tell them there was a problem here but nobody would listen to me.'
For one, nobody could agree that anything was actually wrong with his water. There was little debate that it looked brown, smelled like fuel and tasted awful. But by the standard commonly used to decide if water is safe to drink - the sort of test a homebuyer would require before signing a mortgage Meeks' water was fine.
It didn't contain heavy metals or arsenic or any of the handful of obvious contaminants that drinking-water specialists look for. But the tests didn't look for the vast array of obscure compounds that can come from the industrial processes like drilling, many of which are unknown, even to the scientific community.
EnCana also took samples of Meeks' water, had them tested, and said that it found nothing.
... Meek's neighbours, loyal to an oil and gas industry that pumps billions of dollars into Wyoming's economy and is a significant employer, thought he was a hothead threatening to dismantle their livelihoods more than a victim defending the region's water. As many people saw it, there was nothing to win by complaining. At best, Meeks would be proved right, and the natural landscape around Pavillion would forever carry a stigma. At worst, he would discredit the industry, hurt their business and put everyone's jobs at risk.
One afternoon Meeks was down by the road, tearing out a section of fence. "There's a preacher works a mile down. He stopped and said, 'You are the worst neighbor I could ever have,' " Meeks said. " 'Every time I see you you've got a jar of water in your hand or you are in the newspaper. What if one of these days I want to sell my land? You're making it so I can't.' "
Nearly two years after his water first turned bad, Meeks found himself alone, an aging near-bankrupt war vet facing off against one of the more powerful corporations on the continent.

... In 1995 hydraulic fracturing was used in only a small fraction of gas wells, and the nation’s gas reserves were around 165 trillion cubic feet. The United States was so desperate for energy that energy companies were scrambling to secure foreign oil and building $300-million ports to import liquefied natural gas from Russia, Qatar and elsewhere.

By late 2008, however, fracturing was being used in nine out of 10 of the roughly 33,000 wells drilled in the United States each year, and estimates of the nation’s gas reserves had jumped by two thirds. Drilling was taking place in 31 states, and geologists claimed the United States contained enough natural gas to supply the country for a century.

... As the gas rush spread from central Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico to Colorado, Texas, Arkansas and Pennsylvania, the wells got closer and closer to peoples’ homes — not just in rural towns like Pavillion, but in downtown Ft. Worth and within 150 miles of Manhattan. Forests were checkered with five-acre pads cleared for wells and compressor stations. Tens of thousands of trucks delivered water and removed hazardous waste. In Pennsylvania at least one well was being drilled on an elementary school grounds. In Texas and New Mexico, gas rights were leased beneath city parks. Some states mandated that the typical 15-story, 1,200-horsepower drilling rigs be set up at least 150 feet from homes — not out of any environmental concern, but because that was the distance that would keep the house safe if the rig toppled over.

Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, director of the climate and energy program at Western Environmental Law Center, describes it as “a landscape-scale industrial process.” Think of it, he said, as “a gigantic factory, spread across thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of acres, just without a roof.”

As more wells were drilled, however, more reports began to emerge from people who had similar experiences to that of Louis Meeks.

In Clark, a small northern Wyoming town, benzene was detected in an aquifer after a well blowout. In central Colorado, near the town of Silt, a water well exploded, sending its cap shooting off into the sky. A few miles away, methane gas was found bubbling up out of a placid eddy in a tributary to the Colorado River; then high levels of benzene were detected. It was difficult to say what led to each of these accidents — the latter two of which were also connected to EnCana wells — but drilling and the close proximity of hydraulic fracturing operations was a common thread.
Even in Pavillion, it turned out, Meeks wasn’t the only one with problems. Central Wyoming is a private place, where pride stifles complaints and the miles of space between homes are emblematic of the privacy between people. So, it wasn’t until Meeks’ wife, Donna, a bookkeeper at the Fremont County School District, was chatting with co-worker Rhonda Locker that she learned that the Lockers had also lost their clean water. Rhonda was battling illnesses that she and her husband suspected were caused by contamination. The gas drilling company Tom Brown had paid to have a water-filtration system installed in the Lockers’ house years ago, before Tom Brown was bought by EnCana.

Although the Lockers lived just a short way down the road from the Meeks, the two families had never spoken about their problems. “We weren’t real open about our concerns,” Jeff Locker said. “It’s kind of like talking about your medical conditions.”

Even as a pattern began to emerge, state and federal environment regulators viewed these cases as extraordinary exceptions. If they were addressed at all, they were taken on as isolated problems, not symptoms of a larger threat. Regulators in different states rarely compared notes, and anecdotal stories were confined to local press reports and never thoroughly investigated. The dots were not connected.
Not, that is, until a problem began to emerge 90 miles west of Louis Meeks' home, in Sublette County, Wyoming, a wind-raked, sparsely populated valley with a deeply buried dome of gas-rich sandstone known as the Pinedale Anticline. In 1999 there had been fewer than 35 producing wells in the Pinedale drilling field, which had hitherto seen little activity aside from ranchers running cattle and the nearby crossing of the Oregon Trail. By 2008, there were more than 1,100, and EnCana, Shell, BP and other companies were lining up to participate in the drilling of 4,400 more Sublette County wells on the ocean of sagebrush.

Much of the land in Sublette County is owned by the federal government, which meant that the Environmental Protection Agency — not just state regulators — was charged with conducting an environmental review before drilling is allowed. As part of that review, in 2007 EPA hydrologists sampled a pristine drinking water aquifer that underlay the region. What they found was a show-stopper: frighteningly high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, in 88 separate samples stretching across 28 miles.

“It was like, holy shit, this is huge,” said Greg Oberley, a groundwater specialist at the EPA’s Region 8 headquarters in Denver. “You’ve got benzene in a usable aquifer and nobody is able to verbalize well, using factual information, how the benzene got there. Nobody understood what caused this.”

One thing was clear: There was little industrial activity in the Pinedale area other than drilling, and few other potential causes for the pollution.

In the past, water contamination in drilling fields had been blamed on outdated practices — the messy mistakes of the 1950s. But drilling in Pinedale was relatively new. In this modern field, any contamination linked to drilling also had to be linked to contemporary practices.

For perhaps the first time, federal officials charged with watching over the nation’s drinking water in the oil and gas fields were alarmed. “I had to change my paradigm on how the industry was operating,” Oberley said. “That’s kind of where I said, ‘This needs a better look.’ ”

... “We don’t really know what those things that we should be looking for are,” says Oberley. “That’s been kind of an issue all along. … The service companies haven’t been fully disclosing to EPA what those constituents are.”

When Louis Meeks learned that the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing were kept secret he was dumbfounded. Why was everyone so confident that drilling hadn’t ruined his water if no one really knew what contaminants came from the drilling in the first place? Trying to find the truth was like shooting at a target, blindfolded, in the middle of the night. ... more.




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Washington County Families Sue Over Fracking, Water Testing

... the suit states, the company told the plaintiffs that tests showed their well water was safe to drink, shower and bathe in, cook with, and provide to farm animals and pets. Some of those animals were sickened, and some died.

By Don Hopey, May 26, 2012, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Three Washington County families claim in a lawsuit that they face serious health problems, including a heightened risk of cancer, due to exposure to toxic spills, leaks and air pollutants from a Range Resources Marcellus Shale gas site.

The 182-page lawsuit, filed Friday in Washington County Common Pleas Court, alleges that Range and two commercial water testing laboratories, Microbac Laboratories Inc. and Test America, conspired to produce fraudulent test reports that misrepresented the families' well water as good and contributed to their exposure to hazardous chemicals and a multitude of health problems.

Filed by attorneys John and Kendra Smith, the lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages and is based on information contained in hundreds of pages of water test reports and documents, many subpoenaed from Range and other defendants. In addition to Range, defendants named in the suit include 12 of the drilling company's subcontractors or suppliers, two individuals and the two water testing laboratories. A jury trial is requested.

According to the lawsuit, Range Resources knew its shale gas development operation on the Yeager farm property on McAdams Road in Amwell had contaminated the groundwater with chemicals from a leaking drilling waste pit and a 3 million-gallon hydraulic fracturing fluid flowback impoundment as early as November 2010. But, the suit states, the company told the plaintiffs that tests showed their well water was safe to drink, shower and bathe in, cook with, and provide to farm animals and pets. Some of those animals were sickened, and some died.

The suit says the plaintiffs developed health problems that included nose bleeds, headaches and dizziness, skin rashes, ear infections, nausea, and numbness in extremities.

"It's unfortunate that our clients had no choice but to file a civil action due to damage not only caused to their water and property, but to their health," said Mr. Smith in a written response to a request for comment. "Had the [state Department of Environmental Protection] protected these people, it may have been a different outcome."

Mr. Smith said the lawsuit is the first he knows of in Pennsylvania to allege that a Marcellus Shale gas drilling company didn't provide complete and fully accurate water test results to residents and state regulators.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella issued a statement saying the company cares about the quality of its operations and stands by testing that "has repeatedly proven that our operations have had no adverse impacts in this instance." His statement went on to attack the motives of the law firm and attorneys representing the Amwell residents, and its tactics, which he characterized as "fear-mongering."

"This isn't about health and safety; it's unfortunately about a lawyer hoping to pad his pockets, while frightening a lot of people along the way," he said.

Mr. Smith said it's easier to attack the messenger than to refute facts.

Range Resources has maintained for years that its Yeager operations, which include one "fracked" well and two drilled wells, condensate tanks, the flowback fluids impoundment and drill cuttings pit, have not contaminated groundwater.

The suit says full and complete test results, subpoenaed from Range but never revealed to residents near the Yeager well site, show that chemical contaminants similar to those found in the fracking flowback impoundment and the drill cuttings pit were also found in water samples from wells and springs.

Range showed or sent to the plaintiffs and the DEP less detailed test reports but, the lawsuit claims, omitted results for others, including several semi-volatile organic compounds that were present in the groundwater samples and the company's impoundment and pit, and that showed the water was contaminated.

DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday declined to comment because the matter is in litigation.

Due to continuing health problems, three of the plaintiffs, Stacey Haney and her children have, on the advice of their doctor, moved out of their home on McAdams Road, about 1,500 feet from the Yeager flowback-water impoundment.

Toxicity testing of urine from all the Haney family members has measured higher than safe levels of toulene, benezene, arsenic, cobalt and cadmium. Benezene and arsenic are known carcinogens.

Plaintiffs Beth, John and Ashley Voyles, who live about 800 feet from the impoundment and drill site, and Loren Kiskadden and his mother, Grace Kiskadden, who live in separate homes about 3,100 feet from the Yeager impoundment, have had similar health problems and urine test results.

The filing alleges that in September 2011 Range provided incomplete drinking water test results from Test America to the DEP that omitted findings showing a high concentration of nitrate -- which can cause cancer -- plus fracking fluid, flowback water, uranium and silicon.

... The lawsuit also says Range used the Yeager drill cuttings pit to dispose of hazardous drilling waste from at least three other gas drilling sites in Washington County, and the pit leaked and contaminated groundwater. ... more.

White Calls On State, Federal Authorities For Investigation Of DEP Over Deceptive Marcellus Shale Water-Quality Testing Practices, Testimony By DEP Lab Chief Reveals Possibility Of Intentionally Undisclosed Public Health Risks From Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling

Press Release by State Rep. Jesse White, D-Allegheny/Beaver/Washington, November 1, 2012

State Rep. Jesse White today called for state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for alleged misconduct and fraud revealed by sworn testimony given by a high-ranking DEP official.
White said he received a letter and corresponding documents highlighting the sworn testimony of DEP Bureau of Laboratories Technical Director Taru Upadhyay, who was deposed in a lawsuit alleging nearby natural gas drilling operations contaminated drinking water supplies in Washington County, causing serious health issues. In the deposition, Upadhyay said that the DEP was clearly aware of water impacts from Marcellus Shale drilling, but no notices of violation were filed – a violation of the state’s Oil & Gas Act.

Of more critical concern to Pennsylvania residents, according to White, was that the deposition revealed that the DEP developed a specialized computer-code system to manipulate the test results for residents whose water was tested by the DEP over concerns of adverse effects from gas drilling operations.

According to the transcripts, which have been filed as exhibits in a related lawsuit in Washington County Court of Common Pleas (Haney et al. v. Range Resources et al., Case No. 2012-3534), the DEP lab would conduct water tests using an EPA-approved standard, but the DEP employee who requested the testing would use a specially designed ‘Suite Code’ which limits the information coming back from the DEP lab to the DEP field office, and ultimately to the property owner.
The code in question, Suite Code 942, was used to test for water contamination associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activities, yet specifically screens out results for substances known to be hazardous and associated with Marcellus Shale drilling. Similar codes, Suite Code 943 and 946, are also used by the DEP in similar circumstances; both of these codes omit the presence or levels of drilling-related compounds.

As a result, if Suite Code 942 is applied, the report generated for the homeowner by DEP only includes eight of the 24 metals actually tested for: Barium, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, Sodium and Strontium. The homeowner would not be given results for: Silver, Aluminum, Beryllium, Cadium, Cobalt, Chromium, Copper, Nickel, Silicon, Lithium, Molybdenum, Tin, Titanium, Vandium, Zinc and Boron.
“This is beyond outrageous. Anyone who relied on the DEP for the truth about whether their water has been impacted by drilling activities has apparently been intentionally deprived of critical health and safety information by their own government,” White said. “There is no excuse whatsoever to justify the DEP conducting the water tests and only releasing partial information to residents, especially when the information withheld could easily be the source of the problem. This goes beyond incompetence; this is unlawful and reprehensible activity by the DEP. If these allegations are true, there needs to be a thorough and objective investigation to determine if someone belongs in a jail cell.”
White continued: “I am not releasing this information to hurt Marcellus Shale development in Pennsylvania, but to help ensure the reality matches the rhetoric. The Marcellus boom was built on the assumption that the DEP was competent and capable of balancing the positive impacts of the industry with its job of keeping residents safe and secure, but we now know that simply isn’t the case. Like most of us, I want the Marcellus Shale industry to succeed by doing things the right way, so it is crucial to find out what exactly the DEP was up to. If the system is indeed rigged, we must do everything in our power to root out corruption and restore public confidence in our ability to have an honest conversation with one another about developing a responsible energy policy for Pennsylvania.”

Due to the strong possibility of unlawful conduct, White is calling on the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Environmental Protection Agency, state Attorney General Linda Kelly and any other appropriate law enforcement agency to pursue an investigation of the DEP to discover the scope and depth of this scheme to withhold important information from Pennsylvanians. White is also sending a letter to the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NJ-NELAP), to investigate whether the DEP’s conduct and practices violated the accreditation standards for the DEP laboratories. If accreditation standards were violated, White is requesting the DEP’s accreditation be stripped, rendering the agency unable to conduct and certify its own tests.
White said he is sending a letter to DEP Secretary Michael Krancer seeking a summary of how many constituents in his legislative district, which includes communities with high levels of Marcellus Shale drilling activity, had DEP tests done using Suite Codes 942, 943 or 946. White also intends to make a blanket request on behalf of his constituents that DEP release the full testing data directly to the individual property owners in question.
Any Pennsylvania resident who received water quality test results from the DEP should look for the number 942, 943 or 946 as a ‘Suite Code’ or ‘Standard Analysis’. White encouraged anyone with questions to contact his district office at 724-746-3677 for more information and noted that the property owner should be entitled to the complete testing results from DEP.

“This isn’t a technicality, and it isn’t something which can be ignored,” White said. “We are talking about people’s health, safety and welfare. The sworn testimony from inside the DEP about a scheme to withhold vital information about potential water contamination is truly alarming. An investigation is necessary to answer these serious allegations.”


Heavy Metals: Study Links Water Contamination To Fracking

The study, prepared for the industry-funded Marcellus Shale Coalition by Thomas Hayes of the Gas Technology Institute with input by the state DEP, did a sampling of water at 19 locations, before and after fracking. The study found aluminum, boron, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, lithium, molybdenum, nickel, tin, titanium, thallium and zinc in the flowback water after fracking.

... Kiskadden’s water was found to contain zinc, nickel, cobalt, molybdenum, titanium and boron. These results were not included in his water contamination report.

... the lab also found acetone, chloroform and T-butyl alcohol in Kiskadden’s water, the latter of which is known to be used in fracking fluid.

By Rachel Morgan, Shale reporter, November 3, 2012, The Times Online

In its analysis of residential drinking water, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is not reporting all the chemicals discovered in test results, claiming that the substances simply aren’t related to wastewater from commercial gas drilling.

But a 3-year-old study, in which the state DEP participated, links those unreported chemicals with flowback water from the practice of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
State Rep. Jesse White, D-47, Cecil Township, first brought the issue to light Thursday. Citing a deposition given in a lawsuit by Washington County residents against a drilling company, White issued a press release calling out the DEP for reporting incomplete results of water contamination tests.

Using a computer code called Suite Code 942, the DEP in one case tested for 24 contaminants but listed only eight of those in the report given back to a resident who requested the analysis: barium, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, sodium and strontium.
“These are a Marcellus shale specific list of parameters that are most indicative to that contamination,” DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said Thursday.
Using the same suite code, the report would not include results for silver, aluminum, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, nickel, silicon, lithium, molybdenum, tin, titanium, vandium, zinc and boron. In that same interview on Thursday, Sunday would not confirm that these metals were unrelated to Marcellus drilling.

... But a 2009 study, “Sampling and Analysis of Water Streams Associated with the Development of Marcellus Shale Gas,” links these unreported metals and fracking.

The study, prepared for the industry-funded Marcellus Shale Coalition by Thomas Hayes of the Gas Technology Institute with input by the state DEP, did a sampling of water at 19 locations, before and after fracking. The study found aluminum, boron, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, lithium, molybdenum, nickel, tin, titanium, thallium and zinc in the flowback water after fracking.
These heavy metals can be toxic and some have been identified as carcinogens.

Concerning the DEP’s delineation of which metals are related to Marcellus drilling and which are not, others point out that the “trade secret” of the gas industry — namely, gas drilling companies do not have to make public any proprietary mix of chemicals used in fracking — should also prevent the DEP from making that call.

“You don’t know the chemicals they are using, you don’t know what they are adding to their frack water, you don’t know the outcome of their geological research,” said Maya K. van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “This is a critical question. The drillers are allowed by the agency to keep their secret formulas secret. Everybody’s operating at an incredible information disadvantage.”

The omissions in water contamination reports were revealed in the deposition of a high-ranking DEP employee in a Washington County case of residents against Range Resources. The Sept. 26 deposition of DEP Bureau of Laboratories technical director Taru Upadhyay revealed the DEP’s use of the suite codes that intentionally left out a portion of test results for residents concerned their water had been contaminated by nearby drilling.
One of the homeowners is Loren Kiskadden of Amwell. Kiskadden claims that the DEP’s report regarding his water contamination complaint was inaccurate and incomplete. According to Upadhyay’s deposition from the Environmental Hearing Board case, Kiskadden’s water was found to contain zinc, nickel, cobalt, molybdenum, titanium and boron. These results were not included in his water contamination report.

Upadhyay also said the lab also found acetone, chloroform and T-butyl alcohol in Kiskadden’s water, the latter of which is known to be used in fracking fluid. The DEP said these findings were from lab error and ruled that Kiskadden’s water was not contaminated as a result of nearby fracking, which was occurring 3,000 feet from his home.
Upadhyay also said the lab only released the results asked for by the client. The client, it turns out, isn’t a homeowner like Kiskadden concerned about water contamination. The client is the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas Management, which obtains lab results, then passes them on to the DEP field office, which then gives the results to the homeowner.

In the deposition, also in the Washington County case, of a DEP water quality specialist, John Carson said he was not aware that using the suite codes allowed the lab to only report back to him a portion of the water contamination results.
Sunday, the DEP’s spokesman, said that those living in proximity to drilling should have the gas companies do a pre-drill sample for a baseline measure to determine if there is existing contamination before drilling begins.
“If a homeowner refuses to allow the driller to do this sample, the DEP may not be able to invoke the presumption of liability to hold drillers (responsible,)” Sunday said.

The DEP Bureau of Laboratories is accredited by the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program. According to a letter from attorney Kendra Smith of Smith Butz, LLC, a lawyer in the Washington County case, in order to maintain that accreditation, the DEP lab must follow certain testing methods and guidelines when reporting test results. Smith said the EPA testing method used was 200.7, which was used by the DEP lab to test drinking water for 24 specific metals.

In short, the DEP, under its accreditation requirements, did test for all 24 substances. It just didn’t report them all. ... more.

Cabot’s Methodology Links Tainted Water Wells To Gas Fracking

Methane in two Pennsylvania water wells has a chemical fingerprint that links it to natural gas produced by hydraulic fracturing, evidence that such drilling can pollute drinking water.

Methane gas is vented from a water well outside the home in Dimock, Pennsylvania, in 2010. Industry groups say there hasn't been proof of fracking contaminating water anywhere. - Daniel Acker/Bloomberg By Mark Drajem & Jim Efstathiou Jr. - Oct 1, 2012, Bloomberg

The data, collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are significant because the composition of the gas --its isotopic signature -- falls into a range Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG) had identified as that of the Marcellus Shale, which it tapped through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“The EPA data falls squarely in the Marcellus space” established by Cabot’s scientists, said Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University. That evidence backs up his findings linking gas drilling and water problems in the town of Dimock, applying the very methodology that Cabot established to try to debunk it, he said.

Cabot maintains that its operations haven’t contaminated homeowners’ wells, and its scientists say further analysis shows this gas isn’t from the Marcellus, a mile-deep formation running from New York to the southwestern tip of Virginia. Industry groups say there hasn’t been proof of fracking contaminating water anywhere, and dispute research that suggests pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to break apart rock and free trapped gas endangers the environment.

... “Dimock is so important because it’s so high profile,” Kate Sinding, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York, said in an interview. “It’s been a poster child for what can happen with fracking.”

In a 2010 consent order, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found that 18 drinking-water wells in the area were “affected” by Cabot’s drilling. The company disagreed, and applauded when the EPA cleared the water in Dimock as safe this July. State regulators ruled last month that Cabot could begin fracking seven wells in the affected area of Dimock, ending a moratorium imposed in 2010.

The latest data, which the EPA began to collect early this year, were posted on the agency’s website in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from Jackson, Cabot and others. The EPA submitted the results to its researchers conducting a broader nationwide study about the effects of fracking on drinking water, agency spokesman David Bloomgren said.

... The surge in fracking has been accompanied by a spurt in complaints from homeowners who say their water has been contaminated, resulting in sick children, dead livestock and flammable tap water.

In Dimock, the EPA found that some residents had methane in their water at or more than 14 milligrams per liter -- double the Pennsylvania state safety level -- even as it issued a statement that the water was safe to drink. The U.S. doesn’t set a limit on the gas’s level, as the agency says methane doesn’t impair the smell or taste of water. It can be explosive.

... “The assertion by the Duke study that hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus Shale is contributing thermogenic methane to local water wells and shallow regional groundwater is unsubstantiated given the lines of evidence,” Molofsky and her co-authors concluded in the December paper published in Oil & Gas Journal.

To reach that finding, Molofsky established a range of isotopic values, or the ratio of heavier to lighter carbon, and heavier to lighter hydrogen molecules in the gas, which the researchers wrote provide “valuable geochemical fingerprinting tools.”

In the recently published EPA samples from Dimock, two households had methane that fell within that range. Three others had values nearby.

... If it is Marcellus gas, how did it get in the water wells? Jackson hypothesizes that the steel casings used to keep wells from leaking failed, allowing Marcellus gas to seep out. In the other wells that show evidence of shallower gas, cement lining the wells may not have been installed correctly, providing a pathway for gas to migrate, he said.

The results could be an indication of more contamination to follow.

“If it’s Marcellus, and a problem with casing or even hydraulic fracturing, is it only a matter of time before other things show up?” Jackson said in an e-mail, referring to the chemicals used in fracking. “That’s what I would worry about if I lived there.”

... Fred Baldassare was a hydro-geologist at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection who analyzed the isotopes of methane in Dimock when the state began investigating homeowners’ complaints in 2009.

He is neither convinced by the new EPA data, which he said is too limited to make a conclusion, nor the denials by Cabot. The methane the EPA sampled could have changed over time, and without earlier results from those same wells, they aren’t conclusive, he said.

Still, he said, earlier evidence that he analyzed was conclusive.

“The molecular and isotopic evidence I saw was that the gas in the water supply looked like the gas in the Cabot gas wells,” ... “It’s doing more damage than good to keep denying” that connection, he said: “Let’s get past that.” ... more.


Private Lab Finds Toxic Chemicals In Dimock Water

Water testing by a private environmental engineering firm has found widespread contamination of drinking water with toxic chemicals in an area of Dimock Twp. already affected by methane contamination from natural gas drilling.

By Laura Legere, Staff Writer, September 16, 2010, The Times Tribune

Reports of the positive test results first came Monday when Dimock resident Victoria Switzer testified at an Environmental Protection Agency hearing on hydraulic fracturing in Binghamton, N.Y., that the firm Farnham and Associates Inc. had confirmed ethylene glycol, propylene glycol and toluene were present in her water.

The firm's president, Daniel Farnham, said this week that the incidence of contamination is not isolated. Instead, he has found hydrocarbon solvents - including ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene - in the well water of "almost everybody" on and around Carter Road in Dimock where methane traced to deep rock formations has also been found.

The chemicals he found in the water in Dimock generally have industrial uses, including in antifreeze, gasoline and paint - except propylene glycol, which is also used in food products.

All of the constituents are also frequently used as chemical additives mixed with high volumes of water and sand to fracture gas-bearing rock formations - a crucial but controversial part of natural gas exploration commonly called "fracking."

... Residents in Dimock began raising concerns about their water nearly two years ago, when they began to notice changes in odor, color, taste and texture.

The Department of Environmental Protection determined that Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. allowed methane from a deep rock formation to seep into 14 residential drinking water supplies through faulty or overpressured casing in its Marcellus Shale gas wells.

... But over the spring and summer, with routine testing, Mr. Farnham noticed a pattern of troubling spikes: "After a heavy rain, certainly these things seem to crop up as the aquifer is disturbed," he said.

"What I found was hydrocarbons - ethylbenzene, toluene - in almost everybody who was impacted in the area," he said. "Oddly enough, if I were to go due east or due west of the affected area, I found nothing."

In August, Mr. Farnham shared the results with Cabot during a meeting concerning a lawsuit many of the affected families have filed against the company.

 ... Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. said pre-drill testing performed by Mr. Farnham when he was contracted by land agents of the company in May 2008 showed the hydrocarbon solvents and glycols preexisted in some wells.

"The things he is saying now exist he showed us existed in '08," Cabot spokesman George Stark said. "That's why you do the pre-drill (test)."

Mr. Farnham said Wednesday he never tested for the constituents in 2008, let alone detected them.

"If that had been the case, I would have said this is a moot point," he said.

"We didn't test for that stuff. I don't know how else to say it."

Mr. Stark said the company does not want to release the 2008 water tests because they contain private information about landowners, but he said, "We have the information and we stand by it." ... more.


Ruling Advances Jessica Ernst's Tainted Water Lawsuit, Documents Must Be Released, Says Alberta Information Boss

“We thought we were doing the right thing by not supplying the information”

By Matthew McClure, April 17, 2012, Calgary Herald

In a scathing decision that ends a three-year battle by Rosebud resident Jessica Ernst, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has ordered a government agency to release thousands of pages of documents that could reveal how scientists concluded the contamination was naturally occurring.

Adjudicator Teresa Cunningham ordered Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures to refund the entire $4,125 fee charged for processing Ernst’s request because keeping test results, draft reports and even proposed news releases under wraps with no legal basis contravened her right to timely disclosure.

“The amount of severing done and the lack of justification for it has resulted in the applicant being deprived of her rights,” Cunningham said. “The public body withheld information for reasons that were not borne out by the records, and charged inflated costs for processing the access request.”

… The commissioner’s order will now force the agency to reveal the results of tests on the wells on which it based its conclusions as well as discussions about drafts of the report between its scientists and Alberta Environment officials.

In ruling those records were not advice that could be kept private, Cunningham said e-mails indicated changes in the report appeared to be the result of instructions from the department.

… Rob Semeniuk, spokesman for Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures [previously Alberta Research Council], said the agency will comply with the order to refund the fees and release nearly 6,000 pages of documents.

“We thought we were doing the right thing by not supplying the information,” Semeniuk said.

… Encana did not respond to a request for comment. ... more.


 Refund, But Still Withholding Data. What Don't They Want Us To Know?

Source: From Jessica Ernst's Presentation - The Great Getaway: Secrets Of A Frac Cover-Up

For more on Jessica Ernst's lawsuit please go to: The Last Road To Redemption and Ernst V. Encana Corporation 



Burning Water

Welcome to a picture-perfect green valley of happy tourists, young families and corporate goodwill.

Too bad you can't drink the water.


By Tadzio Richards, March 17, 2007, Maisonneuve
... In winter 2005, the top of the Rosebud tower blew off in an explosion. In March 2006, government tests of the hamlet's water supply found traces of toxic chemicals. ...
Despite this, many in Rosebud go out of their way to reassure visitors that nothing is wrong with the hamlet's water supply.
'There's not a lot to be worried about,' said Debbie Anderson, ... 'except for one or two extremists, most people don't want to bring it up anymore ... I had patrons coming in and saying the water's not fit to drink. We have to step in and say something. 
If the theatre goes and the restaurant goes ... there goes the town.'
... An unassuming man of medium height and weight with short, dirty blond hair, Kenney works with his three brothers on the family's eight-thousand-acre cattle-and-grain operation in the community of Redland, just up the valley from Rosebud.
... As we talked, Kenney's wife Jacqueline watched their three small children and packed for a weekend trip - golf with friends in the Rockies. The TV in the newly built farmhouse was tuned into a golf tournament. Life in the house seemed like the normal routine of a successful Alberta farmer, except for one thing: 'We're drinking bottled water,' said Kenney.
 In August 2004, the family came back from a vacation and found silt in their bath and laundry water.  A local well driller named Chris Gerritsen believed there was a break in the casing of the Kenney's water well. He drilled them a new one. It too, was full of silt. And after pumping for several days, the new well didn't clean out - an extremely rare occurance. A mug of water poured from a tap had thick foam on top. 'Like beer head ... you could spoon it.'
Source: Jessica Ernst's Presentation - Truth and Consequences of Fracking... 'When the water went, my wife was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. We hauled laundry to Rockyford for three months.'
'I'm not looking for a problem ... I just want to know what chemicals are in the water.'
... 'If I were working for EnCana right now, I could not talk to you about this,' said Gerritsen. 'So I quit.' In 2004 Gerritsen was under contract to EnCana when the water problems began at Kenney's farm. During his contract, a consulting firm, Hydrogeological Consultants Ltd. (HCL) was hired by EnCana to investigate the Kenney water problems and write a report.
'At Sean's (Kenney), we drilled a new well and they used that for testing ... the foam coming out of Sean's well - the foam he said looked exactly like beer in a mug - they threw it out. There was one test they did that they threw out because the nitrogen level was 30 percent. They said it was contaminated from the air.'... more.

Water Grief Brings Cowboy To Tears

By Jason Fekete, with files from Renata D’Aliesio, May 2, 2007, Calgary Herald

Hero of the Storm - Photo: David R. StoeckleinPonoka-area farmer Shawn Campbell, 57, tried to choke back tears under the brim of his cowboy hat at a news conference, when he argued rural Albertans’ worries over their contaminated and potentially toxic groundwater are largely falling on deaf ears.
… Industry production has contaminated their water with several explosive gases, he insisted, such as methane, ethane and propane.

But the government is treating them like a bunch of “dumb farmers,” he said, and is failing to protect the best interests of citizens.
… But Environment Minister Rob Renner said Tuesday there’s been methane in groundwater for years and that only recently have Albertans become more aware of the issue. “We do everything that we possibly can to maintain the integrity of our groundwater,” Renner told reporters at the legislature.
“If there is any clear evidence that we need to take further action, we’re prepared to do so.”

But Renner said the province’s analysis of sample wells shows most of the contamination issues are the result of poor well maintenance by landowners.
Alec Blyth, a hydrogeologist with the Alberta Research Council who’s part of the scientific panel reviewing Alberta’s water testing rules…believes improvements to the province’s testing system are required.
One gap he’s cited is the need to collect better data on the natural gas from coal bed methane wells. “We’ve got a fingerprint of the gas, but there is nothing to compare it to,” he said recently. “I think that leads to problems.” ... more.


September 10, 2011, Cochrane Alberta - From Award-Winning Journalist and Author Andrew Nikiforuk's Presentation on Hydraulic Fracturing. Here he talks about Groundwater Contamination.

'As somebody who has reported for 20 years on this industry in the province, I can tell you I've met hundreds of people in this province who have signed confidentiality agreements once their water was blown, once their livestock was killed, once a member of their family were injured, once they lost most of their grass or their trees as a result of fouling events, contamination events, air pollution, you name it.  It is common practice in this province to buy people out, and then buy their silence ... so there is no record of how this industry quite often performs badly.' ... more at the above video.



8 Landowners Reject Closure of Groundwater Cases: Demand Proper Study of Industrial Contamination Media Alert, March 19, 2008

Alberta Environment closed the Rosebud cases based on reviews by ARC [now Alberta Innovates].

…. ARC’s 2007 annual report clearly lists EnCana as a funder of its water program including studies on the impacts of coalbed methane development. (p.14)
In a January 28th letter to MLA David Swann, Karlis Muelenbachs and Barbara Tilley at the University of Alberta, two experts on fingerprinting the sources of gas contamination, criticized the ARC study as inadequate and called the government’s conclusion “premature.”
"In fact, our study of coals in a region about 50 miles north of Rosebud, shows that carbon isotope ratios for ethane in the middle Horseshoe Canyon water reservoir coals (-47.5 +/- 0.3 per mil) are significantly different from carbon isotopes ratios for ethane in the lower Horseshoe Canyon CBM coals (-40.9 +/- 1.2 per mil). In other words, gases from the two coals zones can be distinguished by their ethane isotopic ratios.
As quoted above, the carbon isotope values of ethane in the complainant waters are similar to that of the CBM wells, and therefore, are not similar to in situ gas from the water reservoir coal.
This indicates that the source of the gas is not purely the in situ gas from within the completed zone of the water well.
Instead, there must be a contribution of gas from the CBM coals of the lower Horseshoe Canyon Formation or from the underlying Belly River Formation.

In summary, given the unqualified nature of the D35 well database, the disregard of diagnostic ethane isotope ratios and the lack of coal gas isotope data, we find the overall conclusion of Dr. Blyth’s report “An independent review of coalbed methane related water well complaints filed with Alberta Environment” January 16, 2008, to be premature."

Drs. Barbara Tilley and Karlis Muehlenbachs ... more.


No Gas In Your Water? How Has The Alberta Government Addressed The Important Historical Water Well Data?

 Let's take a look at some original historical water well data.

According to the water well drilling report below - under 3. Drilling Information - you can clearly see Gas Present: No and Oil Present: No

 No gas or oil in this water well according to this bit of documented history that is no longer available for our public viewing pleasure. 



Now let's take a look at our tax dollars at work in the form of the new, 'improved', historical water well document replacement, that is available for our public viewing pleasure.

Have all 220,000+ records been altered?  Who benefits from this?



It appears as though history can be altered, but there are now two pages to this new and 'improved' replacement document, so perhaps that vital information is on page 2 below ...  




How Fracking Is a Danger to Your Health

Amid controversy, New York will embark on a health impacts study, but residents living in the gaslands are already speaking out about their experiences.

By Sabrina Artel, October 1, 2012, AlterNet - Published in collaboration with GlobalPossibilities.org
The ethics of medicine are guided by the Hippocratic Oath which commits medical professionals to the principle of health care based on, Primum non nocere -- First do no harm. Health professionals are speaking out on behalf of the public health of their patients as hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking is introduced into their communities.
Fifty years ago this month Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring a book that warned of the devastating impacts of pesticides and pollutants on human health. That seminal book led to the formation of the EPA and catalyzed a ban on DDT. Decades after the publication of Carson’s book the alarm has escalated with fracking, a technology that is forging a global gas initiative of extreme extraction. Many of the potential human rights injustices are being ignored by governing agencies, as extreme fossil fuel is being fast tracked locally and internationally.
Environmental scientist and biologist Sandra Steingraber (and founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking) referred to as a contemporary Carson asks this,“Is fracking going to kill more New Yorkers than it employs?” She continues to be outspoken about the human rights issue of the “crime of contamination” as she shares her own story of being a cancer survivor struck with bladder cancer at the age of 20 in her environmentally-polluted town in Illinois where she grew up.
Her story is resonating across New York where it was recently announced that Governor Cuomo will not be making an imminent decision about whether to begin high-volume horizontal fracking in the Southern Tier of New York State, but instead has ordered a health study to be completed. As Mary Esch reported for the AP:
New York's health commissioner and ‘qualified outside experts’ will review the health impacts of shale gas drilling before a moratorium on the ‘fracking’ extraction process is lifted, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said Thursday.
Martens said he has rejected calls from health and environmental groups for a health impact analysis by a university school of public health or other independent group, saying such a review is the job of government.

Martens said he's asked Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to assess DEC's own health impact analysis.

Although community groups worry that the study won’t be conducted by an outside, independent body, many are relieved that the multitude of health risks associated with the process of fracking has now become central in the NY debate of how to proceed.
... While New Yorkers wait for the study, the process of shale gas development is already impacting people, whether by exploration, production, distribution and storage to name only a few of the aspects of this full-scale industrial activity. When one reads the reports, the testimonials, meets people suffering and sees the statistics on the chemicals it becomes clear that the only ethical choice and one that supports social justice is to begin an independent Health Impact Assessment, an HIA that addresses the cumulative health impacts.
Jill Wiener representing the 10,000 member volunteer citizens group, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy said, “New Yorkers are rightly concerned about the serious health impacts that would accompany the fracking industry's march through the Marcellus shale.  It's hard to have confidence in a health study that will be overseen by the Cuomo Administration and the DEC considering the DEC has produced an environmental impact statement that ignores peer reviewed science in favor of mis-information obtained from industry websites. Is the Administration really concerned with the health impacts of fracking NY or with covering their 'legal obligations' so fracking can commence?”
And the health impacts could be severe. Dr. Sheila Bushkin has been an active member of the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) for 14 years, in addition to being the of Director of the CME Program Committee of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) and she shared a Table of 12 known chemicals associated with fracking that have dangerous impacts on health. These chemicals include, arsenic, benzene, lead and phenol with symptoms including Leukemia and lymphoma, renal failure, pulmonary damage and the list goes on illuminating the seriousness of the threats to public health.
Nadia Steinzor, the Marcellus regional organizer for Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project, an organizatio