USGS, EPA investigate link between underground wastewater disposal and Oklahoma’s largest earthquake

September 7, 2016 by  
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On Saturday, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake shook north central Oklahoma , prompting the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to investigate whether the quake was caused by the oil and gas industry’s practice of underground wastewater disposal . The quake, which is reportedly the largest in the state’s history, damaged some buildings but there have been no reports of injuries or deaths. Many environmental scientists have long suspected that industrial activities like this are linked to, and can even cause, earthquakes, and hopefully soon the USGS will have answers about what is happening in Oklahoma. Saturday’s earthquake occurred near the city of Pawnee at 8:03 a.m. local time and was reportedly felt in six surrounding states. The quake was somewhat unusual because it occurred on a fault that seismologists didn’t even know existed. In fact, the fault that triggered the quake runs perpendicular to the larger well-known fault system. This is the key feature of the earthquake that piqued the interest of USGS researchers, who suspect that human activity may be partially responsible for kicking off the tremor. The Environmental Protection Agency is also investigating the causes and implications of the earthquake. Related: Surge of earthquakes in Oklahoma puts fracking under fire “Without studying the specifics of the wastewater injection and oil and gas production in this area, the USGS cannot currently conclude whether or not this particular earthquake was caused by industrial-related, human activities,” the USGS said in a statement. “However, we do know that many earthquakes in Oklahoma have been triggered by wastewater fluid injection.” State regulators at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission have ordered oil and gas operators to shut down 35 disposal wells that may have contributed to this weekend’s earthquake in what Governor Mary Fallin has called “a mandatory directive.” The wells located within five miles of a 10-mile section of the fault linked to the quake, and they have been ordered to shut down within seven days, and all the other wells must be shut down within 10 days. Last year, a series of earthquakes in Oklahoma had many scientists and environmentalists pointing fingers at fracking, the common practice in the oil and gas industry of injecting high-pressure liquids underground to open fissures, in an effort to gain access to oil and gas. As industry activity in the state has steadily grown, so too have the number of earthquakes measuring at least 3.0 on the Richter scale. After the  magnitude 5.1 quake between Tulsa and Oklahoma City in February, 2015 , residents feared that the worst was yet to come. With this weekend’s quake now being called the strongest ever in the state, and plenty of oil and gas industry drilling ongoing, nobody is sure at this point what to expect next. Via Fox News and USGS Images via USGS and Shutterstock

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USGS, EPA investigate link between underground wastewater disposal and Oklahoma’s largest earthquake

Germany just banned fracking for all practical purposes

June 27, 2016 by  
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On June 24, German lawmakers approved a measure that, for all practical purposes, bans fracking within the European nation. This follows years of debate within the country about the safety and legality of the practice, which has until now been largely unregulated. Though the fossil fuel industry has lobbied hard for fracking to remain an option within the country, this latest decision is in line with public opinion in Germany , which is deeply suspicious of the technology. The new law allows conventional drilling for oil and gas to continue, however hydraulic fracturing (fracking) will be banned in all but a handful of cases , mostly non-commercial projects. It does allow for scientific test drilling with the permission of relevant state governments and the supervision of independent experts. Related: Tasmania bans fracking for five more years, but the battle rages on Critics claim the ban doesn’t go far enough . For one thing, while it is supposed to be indefinite, it will also be reviewed again in five years, leaving the door open for it to potentially be lifted down the road. Greenpeace and other environmental organizations are protesting the five-year term as well as the exception for test drilling, saying that this could open up loopholes allowing oil and gas companies to continue fracking. They also believe the new legislation does not contain sufficient safeguards to protect the environment from toxic fracking fluids and wastes. Via Phys.org Images via Wikipedia

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Germany just banned fracking for all practical purposes

Solar-powered home in Tainan puts a modern twist on the traditional courtyard house

June 27, 2016 by  
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WLA built the Spring House for a single client who wanted a clear delineation of space between her personal living area and the rooms for entertaining guests. As a result, the 288-square-meter home is split into two interconnected sections: a three-story structure that houses the homeowner’s main living areas and is set farthest from the busy roadways on the northeast side; and a two-story L-shaped structure on the opposite side that’s mostly used for visiting friends and family. The communal areas are kept on the ground floor, while the guest bedrooms, master bedroom, and library and located on the upper levels. In keeping with the vernacular courtyard house style, the home is centered on an open-air space used as a light well for bringing natural light and ventilation deep into the building. Like its courtyard house neighbors to the north, the Spring House also makes use of wood and brick building materials. The architects combined those traditional materials with glass, concrete, and a steel framework for a contemporary finish. “The location was formerly agriculture-based settlement, and there are many local industrial factories appeared through the changing times,” said the architects. “After the completion of the high speed railway in recent years, it is becoming increasingly clear that the area is intertwined with old and new, tradition and technology, quiet and speed…such contrast characteristics, these qualities create a unique geographical character. Therefore, while we follow the example of Taiwan’s traditional architecture that combined with wood structure and load-bearing brick structure, and combine them into a modern steel structure with brick, on the one hand, we use this combination to produce a unique local architectural type whereby create the symbol of the janus characteristics of the environment on the other.” Related: Stunning South Korean Courtyard Home Balances Tradition With Modern Design The client’s desire for a self-sufficient, disaster-ready home was born from fears of climate change and seismic activity. Thus, WLA equipped Spring House with rooftop solar panels and rainwater collection . The roofs are sloped to facilitate rainwater runoff and to maximize rooftop solar exposure. Natural ventilation and solar shades were also carefully attended to as a means to mitigate Taiwan’s hot summers. + Wu & Liu Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Wu & Liu Architects , by AKIRA Photography

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Solar-powered home in Tainan puts a modern twist on the traditional courtyard house

700 barrels of crude oil spill in California as pipeline breaks

June 23, 2016 by  
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An oil pipeline just began to leak in Ventura, California . Early Thursday morning, firefighters rushed to the scene to try and prevent the crude oil from spilling into the ocean . Ventura County Fire Department spokesperson Mike Lindbery originally said the leak could involve as much as 5,000 barrels of crude oil . Crimson Pipeline owns the leaking pipeline. On their website they say they ” safely ” own around 1,000 miles of pipeline throughout California, in Ventura, Orange, Kern County, Los Angeles, and some areas in Northern California. The oil in question belongs to Aera Energy , one of the largest producers of oil and gas in California, who on their website say they “take pride in our excellent safety and environmental performance.” Related: Why didn’t the California pipeline that spilled 101,000 gallons of oil have an auto shut-off valve? NBC Los Angeles reports that the pipe ” burst ” around 5:30 AM local time. Both the Ventura County and Ventury City fire departments initiated investigations . A hazmat team was also dispatched to the scene. Crews saw crude oil spilling ” into the Prince Barranca ,” a water flow that leads to a beach. Firefighters are now working to try and make sure the oil doesn’t reach the ocean. Crews are utilizing bulldozers to build barriers, but also hope a natural basin will help catch the oil as well. Crimson Pipeline shut the pump off, but while the pipe is depressurized, oil continues to flow because of gravity. According to officials, they notified the California departments of environmental health and fish and game about the leak. California has battled oil spills and even an Exxon Mobil oil refinery explosion in the past. Over 100,000 gallons of oil spilled into the ocean near Santa Barbara, California due to a pipeline crack just over a year ago. Via the Los Angeles Times Images via J Brew on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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700 barrels of crude oil spill in California as pipeline breaks

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