UK fracking measures could make exploratory drilling "as easy as building a garden wall"

May 17, 2018 by  
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The United Kingdom ‘s government has come under fire from fracking opponents after releasing measures that could fast-track shale gas projects. Under these measures, explorers could drill test sites without first applying for planning permission, The Guardian reported . Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said, “Britain’s fracking experiment was on life support and now the government is trying its best to shock it back into life.” Shale gas, a natural gas extracted via hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is a controversial energy source. On one hand, it produces less carbon emissions than oil or coal ; on the other, it’s still a fossil fuel polluting the planet more than renewable  resources like solar or wind. According to Greg Clark, the UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, gas has an important role in helping the country meet carbon budgets laid out in its Climate Change Act, as well as international obligations. In a written statement , he said, “Gas still makes up around a third of our current energy usage and every scenario proposed by the Committee on Climate Change setting out how the UK could meet its legally-binding 2050 emissions reduction target includes demand for natural gas” — but “recent decisions on shale exploration planning applications remain disappointingly slow.” Related: New study finds that fracking chemicals could harm the immune system In addition to allowing shale explorers to drill test sites, the measures would allow for the categorization of fracking sites as nationally significant infrastructure , which means approval would come from a national level instead of a local one. Clark also announced a £1.6 million shale support fund that would let planning authorities accelerate fracking applications in the upcoming two years. Fracking opponents were furious. Greenpeace said, “Exploratory drilling will be as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory.” According to MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, “Fracking should be banned, not promoted.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons (1)

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UK fracking measures could make exploratory drilling "as easy as building a garden wall"

NASA study shows water shortages could worsen without action

May 17, 2018 by  
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In a recent “first-of-its-kind”  study led by  NASA , scientists found major changes to freshwater availability — changes that could impact water shortages over the course of the century. For the study, published this week in  Nature , scientists drew on 14 years of satellite observations combined with data on human activity to track freshwater trends in 34 regions worldwide. And, according to hydrologist Jay Famiglietti, “What we are witnessing is major hydrologic change.” Specifically, wet areas around the globe are getting wetter, and dry areas are getting drier. This is bad news for the dry areas, most of them between the tropics and the high latitudes. Several of these hotspots, such as the Middle East, California and Australia, are complicating the issue by depleting their reserves of groundwater. While the study did not find a clear connection between the changing freshwater patterns and climate change, it is unlikely that the situation in these areas will improve without significant government action. Humans playing a huge role in changing freshwater availability via climate change, water management and changing extremes. Freshwater security is more tenuous than we thought. Out now in @Nature https://t.co/KxnC9eQts4 pic.twitter.com/h8Gab3dHrb — Jay Famiglietti (@JayFamiglietti) May 16, 2018 Related: Uravu’s zero-electricity Aqua Panels produce gallons of water from thin air There are multiple factors behind the trends, including climate change , natural cycles and human water management . Lead author Matt Rodell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said, “A key goal was to distinguish shifts in terrestrial water storage caused by natural variability — wet periods and dry periods associated with El Niño and La Niña, for example — from trends related to climate change or human impacts, like pumping groundwater out of an aquifer faster than it is replenished.” Famiglietti said, “The pattern of wet-getting-wetter, dry-getting-drier during the rest of the 21st century is predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models, but we’ll need a much longer data set to be able to definitively say whether climate change is responsible for the emergence of any similar pattern in the GRACE data.” The study states that government policies that encourage water conservation could help avoid increased water shortages. + NASA + Nature Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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New study finds that fracking chemicals could harm the immune system

May 2, 2018 by  
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A recent study adds to concerns over hydraulic fracturing by revealing links between exposure to fracking chemicals and damage to the immune systems of mice in utero. The study found that the mice offspring’s immune systems reacted abnormally to allergens and the flu, and the exposure lowered their ability to ward off diseases. Study lead Paige Lawrence of the University of Rochester Medical Center said in a statement , “This discovery opens up new avenues of research to identify, and someday prevent, possible adverse health effects in people living near fracking sites.” Millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals are pumped underground during fracking, to fracture rock and release fossil fuels . But many are worried that the chemicals in fracking water could contaminate groundwater , and multiple studies have reported higher disease rates in residents of fracking-dense areas. Asthma attacks and acute lymphocytic leukemia are among the ailments reported. The study, published this month in Toxicological Sciences , offers “the first evidence that chemicals found in ground water near fracking sites can impair the immune system.” Related: Interactive map reveals site of fracking accidents across the US Of around 200 chemicals found in groundwater in fracking-dense areas, 23 chemicals have been connected to reproductive and developmental defects in mice. University of Missouri School of Medicine associate professor and co-author Susan Nagel classified them as endocrine disrupters. The team added these 23 to drinking water for pregnant mice in amounts similar to what has been uncovered in groundwater close to fracking locations. They discovered offspring, especially female offspring, “had abnormal immune responses to several types of diseases later on, including an allergic disease and a type of flu. What was most striking: these mice were especially susceptible to a disease that mimics multiple sclerosis, developing symptoms significantly earlier than mice that were not exposed to the chemicals.” The study may only apply to mice at this point, but the team plans to continue their research. Lawrence said, “Our goal is to figure out if these chemicals in our water impact human health, but we first need to know what specific aspects of health to look at, so this was a good place to start.” + University of Rochester Medical Center + Toxicological Sciences Via Futurity Images via Depositphotos and greensefa on Flickr

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Maryland is about to become the third US state to ban fracking

March 28, 2017 by  
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Maryland’s House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed a bill to ban hydraulic fracturing , or fracking , earlier this month, and now the state’s Senate has also approved the measure. This was the final obstacle for the bill; Governor Larry Hogan has said he will sign it. Once he does, Maryland will become the third US state to ban fracking , and the first state with gas reserves to ban it through legislation. Maryland joins Vermont and New York to ban fracking, or the practice of injecting water, chemicals, and sand into the earth to break up rock, releasing natural gas . Vermont achieved a ban with legislation, New York with an executive order. Maryland’s legislation is historic because the state is the first with gas reserves to ban fracking through legislation. The Senate approved the measure with 35 to 10 votes. Related: Maryland House passes bill to ban fracking According to The Baltimore Sun, many people were surprised when the governor announced his support for the ban this month after the House passed the bill. Hogan said in a news conference, “I urge members of the legislature on both sides of the aisle and in both houses to come together and finally put this issue to rest.” Fracking had the most potential in Maryland’s Garrett and Alleghany counties, according to The Washington Post. Advocates of the practice said fracking offers an energy source cleaner than coal – natural gas doesn’t send as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned – but opponents say fracking potentially contaminates water sources and emits greenhouse gas emissions. Maryland’s Sierra Club director Josh Tulkin said the state’s ban is a big step towards a clean energy economy. Senator George Edwards, a Republican of Garrett County, was among the ten who voted against the measure. He suggested an amendment to continue a fracking moratorium to 2027 instead, but lawmakers rejected the amendment. Garrett County resident Ann Bristow told The Washington Post, “This vote confirms the power of participant democracy. Never believe when someone tells you that an organized movement can’t produce change against overwhelming odds. We are proving otherwise.” Via The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun Images via Don’t Frack Maryland Facebook and chesapeakeclimate on Flickr

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Head of EPA Scott Pruitt calls Paris Climate Accord a "bad deal"

March 28, 2017 by  
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Don’t count on Scott Pruitt , head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , to do much environmental protecting. Weeks after rejecting scientific consensus about the role of carbon dioxide in driving global warming, the nation’s top environmental official doubled down on Sunday by describing a landmark accord to curb the planet’s industrial emissions as a “bad deal” for the United States. “You know, what was wrong with Paris was not just that it was, you know, failed to be treated as a treaty, but China and India, the largest producers of CO2 internationally, got away scot-free. They didn’t have to take steps until 2030,” Pruitt said in an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos. “So we’ve penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation.” There’s plenty to nitpick about Pruitt’s stance, which mischaracterizes the positions of China and India, both of which officially ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change in late 2016. For one thing, China is the world’s No. 1 polluter, but India comes in fourth after the United States and European Union. Neither does the 2030 cutoff give China or India special latitude. All 197 countries that have committed themselves to the pact are legally bound to develop plans to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions through 2025 or 2030. And while there’s no legal requirement that specifies how much countries should cut, they must report every two years on their efforts to mitigate emissions levels, which are subject to technical and peer review. Related: EPA chief says carbon dioxide is not a ‘primary contributor’ to global warming Far from getting away “scot-free,” China and India are making inroads in their energy policies. Although it continues to be bogged down by inefficient coal power plants that contribute to its infamous smog, China has been expanding its renewable-energy capacity at a breakneck pace. Even as President Donald Trump decried climate change as a “Chinese hoax” , the Chinese government announced that it intends to spend more than $360 billion through 2020 on renewable power sources like solar and wind, slashing carbon emissions and creating over 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector in the same time frame. India, in the meantime, has pledged to obtain at least 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030. To nudge itself closer to that goal, the South Asian nation is planning 33 solar parks in 21 states, with a capacity of at least 500 megawatts each—no mean feat for a country where millions still have no access to electricity . Indeed India currently houses the world’s largest solar power plant in a single location , a title once held by Topaz Solar Farm in California. For anyone who has been paying attention, however, Pruitt’s statements shouldn’t be too surprising. The former attorney general of Oklahoma has long boasted close ties to the oil and gas industry. He also sued the EPA—the very same agency he now heads—a stunning 14 times , frequently in tandem with companies that donated money to campaigns he was affiliated to. Related: New EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal troubling oil-industry ties Pruitt noted on Sunday that President Trump will soon be signing a new executive order that will halt the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan , an Obama administration policy designed to, among other things, rein in America’s greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030. “With respect to this executive order that’s coming out on Tuesday, this is about making sure that we have a pro-growth and pro-environment approach to how we do regulation in this country,” Pruitt said. Pro-growth? Debatable. Pro-environment? Not a chance. + ABC News Via Huffington Post Photos from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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Head of EPA Scott Pruitt calls Paris Climate Accord a "bad deal"

UK fracking company proposes to dump wastewater into the sea

June 15, 2016 by  
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As public concern continues over the environmental costs of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking , one United Kingdom company said they would toss wastewater from their operations into the sea . Fracking demands huge quantities of water , up to six million gallons per well, but anywhere from 20 to 40 percent comes back to the surface as “flowback” filled with metals, salts, and naturally occurring radioactive materials. While they said the wastewater would be treated, some experts have expressed unease over how effective treatment would be. Chemical company INEOS said in the past they would like to be the largest player in the shale gas industry. They already hold 21 shale licenses . In North Yorkshire, where councillors approved fracking tests, one resident received an email from INEOS in March that described how they plan to deal with flowback. INEOS Upstream Director Tom Pickering said , “We will capture and contain it, treat it back to the standards agreed…with the Environmental Agency and discharge where allowed under permit, most likely the sea.” Related: Is fracking to blame for this crazy river fire? Treated wastewater perhaps sounds slightly less bad than wastewater, except that experts don’t know how safe such treatment would be. The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management told the Environmental Agency (EA) in March , “…we are concerned about the ability to treat flowback fluid at the present time.” The Natural Environmental Research Council released a report last year stating there was a “huge uncertainty” regarding regulatory mechanisms around cleaning the wastewater. They also noted that since fracking is still a relatively young industry, there’s not much information on just how much wastewater fracking will produce. A North Yorkshire council approved fracking tests even though they received 4,375 objections. The Greenpeace Science Unit’s Dr. Paul Johnston said, if the flowback water is dumped into the sea, it would be “a retrograde step” for environmental protection. Via The Guardian Images via INEOS Facebook and DAVID HOLT on Flickr

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Australia smashed a wind energy record last month

June 15, 2016 by  
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Australian wind energy enjoyed a record month in May as wind farms supplied 1,299 gigawatt-hours of renewable electricity to the country’s main power grid, the National Electricity Market (NEM). Wind accounted for 8.5 percent of the country’s electricity demand, according to a report by energy consultants Pitt & Sherry . The record was 22 percent higher than the previous record set in July 2015 and came without any new capacity added in more than a year. The Australian Wind Alliance reports that the record amount of wind energy generated temporarily halted rising carbon emissions from the electricity sector. Four states smashed records last month, led by South Australia where 49 percent of electricity demand was sourced from wind farms. Wind supplied 13 percent of electricity used in Tasmania, 12 percent in Victoria and 4.8 percent in New South Wales. Across the NEM, wind farms have 3.9 GW of capacity. In May, they operated at 49 percent, taking advantage of blustery conditions that more than doubled the efficiency rate compared to March. Related: Australian wave energy project sets a new world record with 14,000 operating hours According to Pitt & Sherry, since former Prime Minister Tony Abbott repealed the country’s carbon tax in July 2014, emissions have increased 5.6 percent from the electricity sector. However, while current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has a mixed record on climate change action, it was reported that the Turnbull government will not publicly fund Australia’s largest proposed export coal project. South Australia has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050 and to make Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) also is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050, with a 100 percent renewable goal by 2020. Victoria just joined South Australia and the ACT in committing to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Via CleanTechnica Images via Flickr

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Fracking suspect in Oklahoma’s third-strongest earthquake

February 15, 2016 by  
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The third strongest earthquake ever reported in Oklahoma struck Saturday morning. Registering a 5.1 on the Richter scale, the quake was followed by several aftershocks, including one with a magnitude 3.9, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There has been an increase in seismic activity in the state in recent years, matched by a flurry of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Seismologists warn that fracking could be the direct cause of the earthquakes . Read the rest of Fracking suspect in Oklahoma’s third-strongest earthquake

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Surge of earthquakes in Oklahoma puts fracking under fire

February 26, 2015 by  
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There were more earthquakes with a magnitude 3.0 or greater in Oklahoma last year than anywhere else in the continental United States. Whereas Oklahoma used to feel one or two tremors a year, it now experiences two to three per day. This spike parallels the state’s boom in shale gas production, and scientists and environmentalists are pointing their fingers at fracking. Read the rest of Surge of earthquakes in Oklahoma puts fracking under fire Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: earthquake , earthquakes , fracking , Fracking earthquake , fracking earthquakes , hydraulic fracturing , oklahoma , Oklahoma Corporation Commission , oklahoma earthquakes , Oklahoma fracking , Oklahoma fracking earthquakes , Oklahoma oil industry , shale gas production , us geological survey , wastewater injection

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Keystone XL battle should be about food security and climate change, not economics

February 24, 2015 by  
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As we await President Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL  pipeline, expected later today, news outlets far and wide are recapping the evolution of the debate. Unfortunately, the headlines often focus on the economy and only mention some vague connection to the environment. In reality, the Keystone XL battle isn’t just about money. It is about reducing fossil fuel emissions and protecting the land necessary for our food and water supplies. Read the rest of Keystone XL battle should be about food security and climate change, not economics Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: action , activism , ban fracking , capitalism , climate , Climate Change , climate chaos , Climate Disaster , congress , conservatives , creativity , drilling , earth , ECO:nomics , economy , Environment , Facebook , fight , Fossil Free , fossil fuels , fracking , frontlines , Future , future generations , gas , green , Grow , hydraulic fracturing , keystone pipeline , keystone pipeline climate change , keystone pipeline food security , keystone pipeline policy , keystone politics , keystone xl , KXL , Love , money , movement , natural gas , NOKXL , obama , oil , Op Ed , peace , pennsylvania , politics , protests , renewable energy , renewables , republicans , revolution , shale , shale gas , shalefields , skills , social media , XL Dissent

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