Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Inside the Censored EPA Fracking Water Study » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Inside the Censored EPA Fracking Water Study » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

DeSmogBlog has obtained a copy of an Obama Administration Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fracking groundwater contamination PowerPoint presentation describing a then-forthcoming study’s findings in Dimock, Pennsylvania.
The PowerPoint presentation reveals a clear link between hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas in Dimock and groundwater contamination, but was censored by the Obama Administration. Instead, the EPA issued an official desk statement in July 2012 - in the thick of election year – saying the water in Dimock was safe for consumption.
One of the whistleblowers said he came forward due to witnessing “patently unethical and possibility illegal acts conducted by EPA management.”
“I have for over a year now worked within the system to try and make right the injustice and apparent unethical acts I witnessed. I have not been alone in this effort,” the unnamed whistleblower told Soraghan. “I took an oath when I became a federal employee that I assume very solemnly.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has spent countless taxpayer dollars and man-hours over the last few years investigating the environmental threats posed by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in many regions across the United States.  And when their draft reports showed that the practice was poisoning water supplies, the gas industry stepped in and immediately put a halt to the studies.
According to a new report by ProPublica, the EPA has halted several investigations into the safety of fracking operations in places like Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. 
Most recently, the EPA halted a study on the environmental impact of fracking in Pavillion, Wyoming.  The draft report of the study had been finished, but the gas industry intervened and questioned the validity of the study, so the EPA decided to back off and hand over the task of completing the study to the state of Wyoming.  The state will finish the investigation, but the funding will come from the natural gas drilling company EnCana.  Incidentally, EnCana is responsible for the pollution that the EPA was testing.
And it wasn’t that the EPA didn’t find anything that citizens should be concerned about; quite the opposite is true.  In spite of halting the study, the agency still told residents that they should not drink the water coming out of their taps, nor should they use it to bathe because of the chemicals that were found in the tap water. 


  1. Fracking the Canning Basin will produce untold billions of litres of salt water - brine - about 3 x's the saltiness of seawater.

    The water will also contain harmful chemicals and radioactive material.

    Treating this water will not come cheap as the companies involved in CSG in Queensland are finding out.


    QGC pours $1 billion into water initiatives

    And it will set a community-related benchmark when it invests more than $1 billion by 2014 on water-related treatment facilities, research, modelling, monitoring and management – including desalinating underground water and making it available for use on farms, by industry and to supplement town water supplies.

    QGC, which is overseeing the project, recently awarded Veolia Water Australia a contract spanning 20 years and worth $800 million to operate and maintain three water treatment plants in the Surat Basin.

    Contractors are building two major water treatment plants which have a combined capacity to treat 200 megalitres a day – the equivalent of about 80 Olympic-sized swimming pools – during peak production.

    These facilities and one smaller plant are located at each of the project’s two major development areas.

    QGC’s lead communications advisor, policy and corporate affairs, Cubby Fox said water from a development area west of Wandoan would be transported by pipeline to the company’s northern water treatment plant at Woleebee Creek.

    “Water produced at Miles and Dalby will be transported by pipeline to our central water treatment plant at our Kenya operational facility,” she said.


    Clarke Energy a leading supplier in Coal Seam Gas powered generators engaged PHE to provide the Electrical Installation of seven 3MW generator sets.

    The project involved the all Low Voltage cabling, 11kV terminations and hazardous areas installations.

    The project was completed for principal contractor Laing O’Rourke on the QGC Chinchilla Water Treatment Plant north of Tara in the Surat Basin of Queensland.

    Value added $2 million +


    QCLNG Upstream Project - Northern Water Treatment Ponds
    Location: Queensland; Australia; Australasia
    Page Content
    Cardno is preparing the design and documentation of five ponds for the Northern Water Treatment Plant (NWTP) of the QCLNG Upstream Project. This plant is required to manage the water and brine streams associated with the coal seam gas from the QGC Northern Gas field being developed for the Queensland Curtis LNG Project (QCLNG).
    Pond works include a clarified raw water storage pond (1,200 ML), a treated water pond (300 ML), an RO rejects pond (600 ML), a concentrated brine pond (1,000 ML) and a Spent IX pond (200 ML) and Sedimentation pond (220 ML).

    Engineering works include bulk earthworks design stormwater overland runoff design for construction water and silt containment, geotechnical design, hydraulic modelling, civil engineering design and documentation for five ponds including specifications for liners, leak detection and miscellaneous concrete works, and testing and construction supervision.

    The NWTP is required to treat water from coal seam gas extraction for 20 years, commencing in 2013.

  2. Water treatment cont.....


    Australia: QGC Northern Water Treatment Plant Hits Major Milestone (VIDEO)

    In one of Australia’s most complex construction lifting tasks, Laing O’Rourke has installed 360 tonnes of plant at QGC’s Northern Water Treatment Plant.

    The installation of three brine concentrator vessels was a major milestone for the Northern Water Treatment Plant, near Wandoan.

    They are the critical elements of the plant that will purify 100 million litres of water a day.

    Weighing about 120 tonnes each, the stainless steel brine concentrator vessels were built in New Zealand, shipped to Brisbane and trucked to the site.

    A 600-tonne crawler crane, one of the largest mobile cranes in Australia, lifted the vessels into place. All involved in the lift took part in a safety workshop to plan the manoeuvres.

    The ground beneath the giant crane also had to be specially prepared to take the enormous loads.

    QGC has praised the Laing O’Rourke and GE Betz consortium for its engineering excellence in the safe construction and installation of the concentrators.

    Watch as Laing O’Rourke installs 360 tonnes of Oil and Gas plant in regional Queensland.


  3. As we have seen the US fracking industry has run into all sorts of problems with water treatment - or the lack thereof.


    A Texan tragedy: ample oil, no water

    Fracking boom sucks away precious water from beneath the ground, leaving cattle dead, farms bone-dry and people thirsty

    Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night last month when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water.

    "The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes," she said, blinking back tears. "I went: 'dear God help us. That was the first thought that came to mind."

    Across the south-west, residents of small communities like Barnhart are confronting the reality that something as basic as running water, as unthinking as turning on a tap, can no longer be taken for granted.

    Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry's outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse.

    In Texas alone, about 30 communities could run out of water by the end of the year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

    Nearly 15 million people are living under some form of water rationing, barred from freely sprinkling their lawns or refilling their swimming pools. In Barnhart's case, the well appears to have run dry because the water was being extracted for shale gas fracking.

    The town — a gas station, a community hall and a taco truck – sits in the midst of the great Texan oil rush, on the eastern edge of the Permian basin.

    A few years ago, it seemed like a place on the way out. Now McGuire said she can see nine oil wells from her back porch, and there are dozens of RVs parked outside town, full of oil workers.

    But soon after the first frack trucks pulled up two years ago, the well on McGuire's property ran dry.

    No-one in Barnhart paid much attention at the time, and McGuire hooked up to the town's central water supply. "Everyone just said: 'too bad'. Well now it's all going dry," McGuire said.

    Ranchers dumped most of their herds. Cotton farmers lost up to half their crops. The extra draw down, coupled with drought, made it impossible for local ranchers to feed and water their herds, said Buck Owens. In a good year, Owens used to run 500 cattle and up to 8,000 goats on his 7,689 leased hectares (19,000 acres). Now he's down to a few hundred goats.

    The drought undoubtedly took its toll but Owens reserved his anger for the contractors who drilled 104 water wells on his leased land, to supply the oil companies.

    Water levels were dropping in his wells because of the vast amounts of water being pumped out of the Edwards-Trinity-Plateau Aquifer, a 34,000 sq mile water bearing formation.

    "They are sucking all of the water out of the ground, and there are just hundreds and hundreds of water trucks here every day bringing fresh water out of the wells," Owens said.

    Meanwhile, residents in town complained, they were forced to live under water rationing. "I've got dead trees in my yard because I haven't been able to water them," said Glenda Kuykendall. "The state is mandating our water system to conserve water but why?... Getting one oil well fracked takes more water than the entire town can drink or use in a day."

    Even as the drought bore down, even as the water levels declined, the oil industry continued to demand water and those with water on their land were willing to sell it. The road west of town was lined with signs advertising "fresh water", where tankers can take on a box-car-sized load of water laced with industrial chemicals.

  4. Texan tragedy cont.....


    "If you're going to develop the oil, you've got to have the water," said Larry Baxter, a contractor from the nearby town of Mertzon, who installed two frack tanks on his land earlier this year, hoping to make a business out of his well selling water to oil industry.

    By his own estimate, his well could produce enough to fill up 20 or 30 water trucks for the oil industry each day. At $60 (£39.58) a truck, that was $36,000 a month, easily. "I could sell 100 truckloads a day if I was open to it," Baxter said.

    He rejected the idea there should be any curbs on selling water during the drought. "People use their water for food and fibre. I choose to use my water to sell to the oil field," he said. "Who's taking advantage? I don't see any difference."

    Barnhart remained dry for five days last month before local work crew revived an abandoned railway well and started pumping again. But residents fear it is just a temporary fix and that next time it happens they won't have their own wells to fall back on. "My well is very very close to going dry," said Kuykendall.

    So what is a town like Barnhart to do? Fracking is a powerful drain on water supplies. In adjacent Crockett county, fracking accounts for up to 25% of water use, according to the groundwater conservation district. But Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, argues fracking is not the only reason Texas is going dry – and nor is the drought. The latest shocks to the water system come after decades of overuse by ranchers, cotton farmers, and fast-growing thirsty cities.

    "We have large urban centres sucking water out of west Texas to put on their lands. We have a huge agricultural community, and now we have fracking which is also using water," she said. And then there is climate change.

    West Texas has a long history of recurring drought, but under climate change, the south-west has been experiencing record-breaking heatwaves, further drying out the soil and speeding the evaporation of water in lakes and reservoirs. Underground aquifers failed to regenerate. "What happens is that climate change comes on top and in many cases it can be the final straw that breaks the camel's back, but the camel is already overloaded," said Hayhoe.

    Other communities across a bone-dry south-west are resorting to extraordinary measures to keep the water flowing. Robert Lee, also in the oil patch, has been hauling in water by tanker. So has Spicewood Beach, a resort town 40 miles from Austin, which has been trucking in water since early 2012.

    San Angelo, a city of 100,000, dug a pipeline to an underground water source more than 60 miles away, and sunk half a dozen new wells.

    Las Cruces, just across the border from the Texas panhandle in New Mexico, is drilling down 1,000ft in search of water.

    But those fixes are way out of reach for small, rural communities. Outside the RV parks for the oil field workers who are just passing through, Barnhart has a population of about 200.

    "We barely make enough money to pay our light bill and we're supposed to find $300,000 to drill a water well?" said John Nanny, an official with the town's water supply company.

    Last week brought some relief, with rain across the entire state of Texas. Rain gauges in some parts of west Texas registered two inches or more. Some ranchers dared to hope it was the beginning of the end of the drought.

    But not Owens, not yet anyway. The underground aquifers needed far more rain to recharge, he said, and it just wasn't raining as hard as it did when he was growing up.

    "We've got to get floods. We've got to get a hurricane to move up in our country and just saturate everything to replenish the aquifer," he said. "Because when the water is gone. That's it. We're gone."

  5. Parliamentary inquiry to investigate effects of fracking on land use and groundwater

    A parliamentary inquiry has been launched to investigate the effects of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing of unconventional gas, in WA.

    The Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs has announced the inquiry which will be chaired by Simon O'Brien.

    The upper house committee will look into the effect the mining practice, commonly known as "fracking", has on current and future land use and groundwater.

    The terms also include the reclamation and rehabilitation of land where fracking has occurred and the regulation of chemicals used in the process.

    The Member for Moore, Shane Love, says the community wants fracking investigated.

    "I think it gives the community a chance, which it's been calling for really, a chance to be heard and to express to the government, or to parliament, it's concerns about this process," he said.

    Mr Love says there are a number of concerns the community has.

    "There are a number of people who are either landowners and farmers in the area who are concerned about the effects on agricultural land or upon their businesses, and other people who have concerns on the effects on the environment," he said.

    "But, also of course, there is the economic potential this could have for Western Australia, and all these things need to be considered."

    Eneabba farmer Wendy Mills says she is pleased the inquiry has been launched but it is not broad enough and needs to focus more on farmer's land rights.

    "We definitely would like to see access agreements and the way that they are written and are allowed to be written included," she said.

    "Also, if we are going to have to have all this damage, and we may not have damage, but if we're going to have to have issues, we would like to think that all West Australians will be fairly compensated."

    Ms Mills is also calling for the inquiry to include the potential health impacts of fracking and the right to veto fracking exploration.
    "Any of this exploration is something that really needs a lot more looking at as any of the agreements are put forward, common law rights of veto power and also fair compensation, are always being left out," she said.

    "So, we need to have some further consideration as to input from the landholders.

    "We always feel that there's a lot of input from explorers themselves and all their aspects are fully considered, but anything to do with landholders is left right alone."

    Ms Mills says landholders are happy an inquiry is being held.

    "We have been asking questions, we've been writing letters, we've been talking to local members and we're really pleased that there has been some consideration to it," she said.

    "We can only hope that requests to add a few more terms to be looked at will cover most of the things that we are very concerned about."

    Public submissions to the inquiry are open until September 20.

    1. Green group cites fracking inquiry shortcomings

      The Conservation Council of Western Australia says some of its primary concerns about fracking are not included in the terms of reference of a parliamentary inquiry into the mining practice.

      The Upper House committee is conducting Australia's first parliamentary inquiry into the impact hydraulic fracturing of unconventional gas has on land and groundwater.

      The inquiry will also looking into the reclamation and rehabilitation of land where fracking has occurred and the regulation of chemicals used in the process.

      The conservation council's Jamie Hanson says impacts on human health, groundwater contamination and air pollution are not clearly included in the terms.

      "There's a whole range of concerns, which are our largest concerns, which aren't easy to accommodate within the terms of reference," he said.

      "So we're concerned they're a bit narrow and we'd be really interested in seeing parliamentarians expand those.

      "There's no mention in them of potential impacts on human health, there's no mention in the terms of reference of issues to do with groundwater contamination, which astonish me, no mention of climate change impacts, no mention of air pollution, no mention either of the adequacy of regulations."

      Inquiry chairman Simon O'Brien says the terms of reference are very broad.

  6. This is kinda funny.....

    Fears for Pacific tuna stocks amid record 2012 catch

    .......Concerns over sustainability

    "So purse seining is a very lucrative business to be in at the moment and that is probably driving the increase in the vessels in the region," he said.

    But the record numbers are of concern to conservationists, such as Greenpeace's Co-ordinator for International Sustainable Seafood Program, Cat Dorey.

    She says more must be done to protect the fish species.

    "We've already seen over at least the last eight years that big eye has been declining and if we don't get this under control, the stock will reach a level where it will struggle to maintain the population," she said.

    Species such as big eye and yellow eye tuna which are already on the radar of scientists also recorded record catches in 2012, with yellow fin up 25 per cent.

    Ms Dorey says there needs to be bigger cuts to fishing quotas, and will be pushing for that at the December meeting of the Central and Western Fisheries Commission in Cairns, Australia.

    "We will certainly be calling for much more stronger cuts to fishing across all fleets, targeting these species, particularly the purse seine fleets that use fish aggregating devices because these are the ones that catch the high numbers of juvenile tuna", she said.


    Get it?

  7. Calif. Panel Launches Probe into Offshore Fracking

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — California regulators have launched an investigation into offshore hydraulic fracturing after revelations that the practice had quietly occurred off the coast for the past two decades.


    A recent report by The Associated Press documented at least a dozen instances of fracking since the late 1990s in the Santa Barbara Channel, site of a disastrous 1969 oil platform blowout that spurred the modern environmental movement. Earlier this year, federal regulators approved a new project, but work has not yet begun.


    BSEE's Pacific regional director, Jaron Ming, told employees in an email earlier this year about the increased interest in offshore fracking within the agency and from the public.

    "For that reason, I am asking you to pay close attention to any (drilling applications) that we receive and let me know if you believe any of them would be considered a 'frac job.'"

    Records show that companies that have fracked off the California coast have had mixed success stimulating oil into new production. The largest offshore frack occurred in 2010 when Venoco Inc. targeted the Monterey Shale, a 1,750-square-mile area extending from the agricultural Central Valley to the Pacific Ocean that federal energy officials say could ultimately comprise two-thirds of the nation's shale oil reserves. The effort only mildly boosted production.


    Marcellus Gas Production Rising Fast in Pa., W.Va.

    PITTSBURGH (AP) — Marcellus Shale natural gas production is rising even faster this year than energy experts had predicted, and that's having a national impact on energy.

    Bentek, a Colorado company that analyzes energy trends, said 2013 production in Pennsylvania and West Virginia is up about 50 percent compared with last year. Figures for the pipelines that take gas out of the Marcellus show that in the first six months of the year, Pennsylvania produced about 1.5 trillion cubic feet of gas, with projections for a year-end total of about 3.2 trillion cubic feet.

    That yearly number translates into the equivalent of about 550 million barrels of oil.

    The official mid-2013 production figures for Pennsylvania and West Virginia haven't been released yet by those states, but Bentek's figures are considered very reliable by government and industry sources.


    Murphy believes there is still a backlog of about 2,000 wells that have already been drilled but aren't hooked up to pipelines for production yet. Others estimate the backlog at 1,000 wells, but in either case, it's adding to the production surge.

    Kathryn Klaber, CEO of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said in an email that the industry group expects "that activity will remain robust" since the necessary infrastructure is increasingly in place to process and move natural gas to market.


    Fitch: Gas Prices Likely to Be Range Bound

    Natural gas prices are likely to stay in a range between $3-$4.50 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) during the next few years, according to Fitch Ratings.

    Fitch expects prices to remain volatile due to weather impacts, but should continue to be a range bound over the next several years due to the substantial amount of oversupply that continues to affect the market and limited visibility on new demand to soak up that supply.


    Fitch expects some near-term incremental demand response, but major demand additions from coal and nuclear power plant retirements, LNG export, and new chemical plants are not due to be completed until 2016-2018.

  8. HRT Mulls Amazon LNG Project

    HRT Participações of Brazil said that LNG is its preferred solution to move gas from isolated Amazon wells to paying customers.

    HRT and NK Rosneft of Russia have signed letters of intent with Petrobras to cooperate on projects to “monetize” or sell gas from Amazon, Reuters informs.

    LNG’s costs, plus large future exploration needs in Brazil and Namibia, have prompted HRT to look for partners or buyers for stakes in individual company assets.

    A final decision on what options to use in the Amazon could come as early as this month.

  9. Great Barrier Reef dredging could be more damaging than thought

    WWF claims report proves that dredging and dumping of seabed sediment near the reef should be banned

    Dredging could be more harmful to the Great Barrier Reef than previously thought, a government-commissioned report has found, amid fresh warnings over the impact of coastal industrialisation on sea turtles and dugongs.

    The WWF claimed the report proved that the dredging and dumping of seabed sediment near the reef should be banned.

    Last week, the environment minister, Mark Butler, deferred a decision on whether to allow the dredging of the seabed to enlarge the Abbot Point port, near the Queensland town of Bowen, to allow for the export of more coal.

    *****(note for JPP)

    The report, undertaken by consultants Sinclair Knight Merz, states that spoil from dredging travels a lot further than previously thought, with dumped sediment capable of being disturbed repeatedly by severe weather. However, it doesn't rule out dumping dredged waste at sea and suggests various locations near current ports that would do the least damage to coral and other marine wildlife.


    Previous government analysis, including by the CSIRO, has blamed flooding rather than dredging for rising death and disease among the reef's fauna, in particular the heavily dredged area of Gladstone.

    Richard Leck, Great Barrier Reef campaigner at the WWF, told Guardian Australia that about 40m tonnes of dredged spoil would be dumped into the World Heritage Area if all port development projects were allowed to proceed.

    "The science has shown that the resilience of the reef is incredibly low at the moment," he said. "The government is spending $400m on improving reef water quality by 1-2% a year, which seems like a crazy amount of money to spend when you're dumping 40m tonnes of waste at the same time.

    "There's not enough consideration of the alternatives to dredging, which is an outdated practice. We should be getting a lot smarter about using infrastructure in order to minimise the amount of dumping, especially when ports are operating at 50% capacity on the reef."

    The Turtle Island Restoration Network, a US conservation group that visited Australia this week, has warned that coastal development in Queensland could push several species of sea turtle towards extinction.

    The Great Barrier Reef plays host to six species of turtle, which are threatened by boat strikes, water pollution and the direct impact of dredging.

    "The reef is home to some of the most amazing turtle species in the world, which rely on a healthy environment for their future," said Teri Shore, program director of the network.

    "The Australian Flatback lives entirely in waters close to shore and sandy beaches, making them highly vulnerable to coastal port developments and shipping. Leatherbacks, which are also in jeopardy, live more in the open ocean where increased ship movements will take their toll through greater injury and death.

    "Ship strikes alone have killed 45 turtles in Gladstone Harbour since the Curtis Island LNG project began, compared with an average of two a year in the past decade."


    ....A presentation compiled by Animals Australia and sent to the environment minister warns that large numbers of dugongs are being stranded on beaches and that dredged spoil is wiping out vast tracts of seagrass. Industry denies that seagrass is severely damaged by dredging.

    Animals Australia said the dugong population on the urban coast of Queensland is "almost certainly on the road to extinction".

    "Future port development will ensure the non-recovery of the species," it said. "There has been no attempt by federal or state governments to estimate the cost of losing the dugong population, nor any urgent action to ensure protection of the remaining sparse numbers."