In an effort to protect the country's water supply, the Obama administration released new federal regulations on Friday that will affect all hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") operations on federal lands. These are the first federal regulations related to hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is a process in which liquid is pumped into rock seams at a high pressure in order to gain access to oil and gas that are not reachable by more conventional methods. This method has increased the United States' production of oil and gas and led to a boom in the economy. However, there is a fear that this type of fracturing could cause contamination in the water supplies.
The number of injuries and environmental disasters along America's roads, pipelines, and railways involving the movement of oil and gas has proliferated in recent years along with domestic production. An enormous explosion in West Virginia on Monday reminds us of the potential hazards of such activity to the communities located along such transport routes.
In January, a chemical company spilled a coal-cleaning agent into a West Virginia river, leaving 300,000 people without safe drinking water. Six executives of the chemical company were charged by federal authorities for violating the Clean Water Act.
For the past two years, residents of Parker County have experienced eruptions of flames shooting from their water wells as a result of dangerous levels of methane gas traveling into their water supply. Barnett Shale gas producers have claimed zero connection to their gas and oil operations, but a pair of scientists are now disputing this. This new connection has been made based on test results released by state regulators providing a direct connection to the fracking and groundwater contamination.
A weekend oil spill in the Houston Shipping Channel left one of "the nation's busiest seaports" closed for at least part of the day today. The spill was caused by the collision of a ship with a barge and dumped as much as 168,000 gallons of oil into the water. The capacity of the barge, the Summer Wind, was close to 900,000 gallons; only about a fifth of the barge's oil cargo was spilled into the water after the wreck.
The Keystone Pipeline, run by TransCanada, reportedly began pumping this week as scheduled. It is delivering crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas, crossing a span of just under 500 miles. This is the southern portion of the Keystone Pipeline. Because it doesn't cross international borders (Canada), it did not require Presidential approval to begin transporting crude.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking small steps to oversee the safety of the booming fracking industry. Companies who engage in hydraulic fracturing in the waters off the coast of Southern California will be required to report, beginning March 1, if they dump chemicals into the ocean. But, there's a catch. The rule only applies to new drilling jobs; existing rigs will be grandfathered in under the new rule and are exempt from the reporting requirements.
It's no secret that a byproduct of hydro fracking is wastewater. Hyrdraulic fracturing is, at its simplest level, the use of pressurized liquid to split rock, allowing the extraction of oil and gas from the earth. What may be a surprise are the results of a study recently released in the Environmental Science journal.
According to a recent story by Bloomberg, naturally occurring radiation brought to the surface by gas drillers has been detected in a Pennsylvania creek that flows into the Allegheny River. Sediment in Blacklick Creek contained radium in concentrations 200 times above normal according to the study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The radium, along with salts such as bromide, came from the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility about 45 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Mora County, New Mexico may have been one of the first communities in the United States to completely ban fracking - the use of water and chemicals to extract oil and gas from the earth - despite the economic benefits that it may have brought to this community of 5,000. Despite an unemployment rate of double the national average, the County decided that the threat of water contamination caused by fracking far outweighed the potential benefits of allowing hydraulic fracturing in the area.