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Pennsylvania law okays treated coal-mining water for frac jobs

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law a bill intended to encourage more oil and gas companies to use treated coal-mine wastewater for hydraulic fracturing . The law was scheduled to become effective in December. Consol Energy operates coal mines in southwestern Pennsylvania as well as developing and producing natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales . Consol Energy already had used wastewaste from its coal mines for fracturing, a company spokesman said. The new law is intended to encourage other gas operators to use treated mine water instead of fresh water. The use of mine water for fracing was among recommendations made by former Gov. Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. In 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a white paper to promote the practice. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection officials supported the legislation. Previously, oil and gas companies were reluctant to use treated mine […]

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Have We Reached A “Peak Water” Tipping Point In California?

It may be a see-saw course, but it’s riding an uphill train. A bit ago I wrote , regarding climate and tipping points: The concept of “tipping point” — a change beyond which there’s no turning back — comes up a lot in climate discussions. An obvious tipping point involves polar ice. If the earth keeps warming — both in the atmosphere and in the ocean — at some point a full and permanent melt of Arctic and Antarctic ice is inevitable. Permanent ice first started forming in the Antarctic about 35 million years ago, thanks to global cooling which crossed a tipping point for ice formation. That’s not very long ago. During the 200 million years before that, the earth was too warm for permanent ice to form, at least as far as we know. We’re now going the other direction, rewarming the earth, and permanent ice is […]

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Oil Drillers Spared More Misery by U.S. Judge’s Fracking Ruling

A U.S. judge in Wyoming has blocked new rules that tighten controls over fracking on federal lands, granting a measure of relief to producers who would have faced higher costs at a time when profits already are strangled by low crude prices. The order by U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl puts a temporary hold on the most closely-watched effort by the Obama administration to ensure that hydraulic fracturing doesn’t contaminate water supplies. While the rules apply only to federal lands, they are designed to spur states to follow suit, magnifying the impact and potentially slowing development of oil and natural gas resources. Skavdahl said the government’s Bureau of Land Management lacks the authority to control fracking. Republican Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, approved of the ruling as “the right decision because it stops the Obama Administration from shoving this harmful policy down the states’ […]

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California drought and impending El Niño raise fears of levee breaks

LOS ANGELES — California’s historic drought is in its fourth year and gloom-and-doom scenarios of its impact on everything from killing the state’s vegetation and triggering bug infestation to destroying farming jobs have been trickling in daily. Now, there is another fear: The prolonged drought may have weakened California’s more than 13,000 miles of levees, which could result in floods and affect the quality of water for millions of Californians. That’s a scary prospect for parts of the state that could get doused with torrential rain this winter, thanks to an El Niño weather front triggered by unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures. And the mere mention of levee breaks evokes terrifying images of the devastation Hurricane Katrina wreaked on New Orleans 10 years ago. A Mississippi State University civil engineer sounded the alarm in a recent article in Science magazine . “If the drought ends with heavy rainfall-induced flooding, […]

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Scientists say it’s been 500 years since California has been this dry

A snowboarder threads his way through patches of dirt in Olympic Valley, California. Many Tahoe-area ski resorts have closed due to low snowfall as California’s historic drought continues. (Max Whittaker/Getty Images) Researchers knew California’s drought was already a record breaker when they set out to find its exact place in history, but they were surprised by what they discovered: It has been 500 years since what is now the Golden State has been this dry. California is in the fourth year of a severe drought with temperatures so high and precipitation so low that rain and snow evaporate almost as soon as it hits the ground. A research paper released Monday said an analysis of blue oak tree rings in the state’s Central Valley showed that the amount of mountain snow California relies on for moisture hasn’t been so low since the 1500s. That was around the time when […]

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Impact of Exxon Valdez spill on fish far greater than thought, study finds

Federal scientists may have found a link between the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and a decline of herring and pink salmon populations in Prince William Sound. In a study published Tuesday in the online journal Scientific Reports, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that embryonic salmon and herring exposed to even very low levels of crude oil can develop heart defects. Herring and pink salmon juveniles that were exposed to crude oil as embryos grew slower and swam slower, making them vulnerable to predators, said John Incardona, a research toxicologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, in a prepared statement Exxon Valdez: 25 years later We explore the lasting impacts of oil spills on communities and the country. "These juvenile fish on the outside look completely normal, but their hearts are not functioning properly and that translates directly into reduced swimming […]

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Former Bakken Operator Pleads Not-Guilty

Saltwater Waste A Southlake, Texas man charged with illegally injecting saltwater into a disposal well in North Dakota pled not guilty to federal charges last week in federal court. Jason Halek, a former operator of a saltwater well in southwest North Dakota, was indicted on 13 federal counts and fined a record $1.5 million in 2013 for putting drinking water at risk by illegally dumping more than 800,000 gallons of salty, oilfield wastewater into a former oil well in Stark County. He entered not guilty pleas to all charges including violating the Safe Drinking Water Act, making false statements and obstructing grand jury proceedings. The indictment claims Halik conspired to hinder by “craft, trickery, deceit, and dishonest means the lawful and legitimate functions of the EPA, in enforcing federal laws relating to the requirements of the North Dakota underground injection control program.” Saltwater is considered an environmental hazard that […]

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Texas regulator clears oil and gas company of causing quakes

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The regulatory agency overseeing Texas’ oil and gas industry has determined that a series of small earthquakes in North Texas likely wasn’t caused by drilling operations by an Exxon Mobil subsidiary. The preliminary findings mark the first decision by the Texas Railroad Commission since it was authorized last year to consider whether seismological activity was caused by injection wells, which store briny wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. The commission ordered hearings after a university study suggested two companies’ wells were responsible for quakes that shook Reno, Texas, in 2013 and 2014. Commission investigators concluded that a well where Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy pumps millions of gallons of the wastewater likely didn’t cause the quakes, but also said there wasn’t enough evidence to demonstrate the earthquakes were naturally occurring. Parties have 15 days to respond. The report was released Monday, a day before a new law […]

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