Category: Gas


By Reuters

Earthquakes rattled residents in Oklahoma on Saturday, the latest in a series that have put the state on track for record quake activity this year, which some seismologists say may be tied to oil and gas exploration.

One earthquake recorded at 3.8 magnitude by the U.S. Geological Survey rocked houses in several communities around central Oklahoma at 7:42 a.m. local time.

Another about two hours earlier in the same part of the state, north of Oklahoma City, was recorded at 2.9 magnitude, USGS said.

Root issue: Seismologists believe the quakes may be tied to oil and gas exploration

Root issue: Seismologists believe the quakes may be tied to oil and gas exploration

 

Those two were preceded by two more, at 2.6 magnitude, and 2.5 magnitude, that also rolled the landscape in central Oklahoma early Saturday morning.

A 3.0 magnitude tremor struck late Friday night in that area as well, following a 3.4 magnitude hit Friday afternoon.

The quakes have set record levels of seismic activity through the state

The quakes have set record levels of seismic activity through the state

 

Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey who tracks earthquake activity for the USGS, said the earthquake activity in the state is soaring.

‘We have had almost as many magnitude 3 and greater already in 2014 than we did for all of 2013,’ Holland said.

 

Last year’s number of ‘felt’ earthquakes – those strong enough to rattle items on a shelf – hit a record 222 in the state. This year, less than four months into the year, the state has recorded 253 such tremors, according to state seismic data.

 

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  • About 200 people evacuated from nearby homes after blast
  • theguardian.com, Monday 31 March 2014 16.18 EDT
washington gas plant
Williams Northwest Pipeline plant is seen after a natural gas pipeline ruptured at the plant in Plymouth, Washington. Photograph: Sarah Gordon/AP

A large explosion and fire Monday at natural gas processing plant near the Washington-Oregon border injured four workers and led to the evacuation of about 200 people from nearby homes as flames and a mushroom-shaped cloud of black smoke reached high into the air.

The 8:20am blast at the Williams Northwest Pipeline plant in the town of Plymouth, along the Columbia River, also punctured a liquefied natural gas storage tank.

Benton County sheriff Steven Keane said some gas leaked from the tank to the ground in a containment area and evaporated into the air, but it was only a small amount. “I think if one of those huge tanks has exploded, it might have been a different story,” he said.

Of the four workers injured, one was treated at the scene and three with burns were taken to Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston, Oregon. The three were treated in the emergency room for injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, hospital spokesman Mark Ettesvold said.

Across the Columbia River, the blast shook the home of Cindi Stefani.

“It was just a very loud boom,” she said. “I looked across the river and saw a giant mushroom cloud and flames at least a couple hundred feet high.”

Animals on neighboring farms were running around, she added.

“At that point we were pretty scared. I was thinking, ‘We need to get out of here.’”

 

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Sheriff’s update on natural gas fire

 

 

Published on Mar 31, 2014

Joe Lusignan of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office briefs the media on the evacuation. (Video by Bob Brawdy)

 

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Oregon Public Broadcasting

At Least 4 Injured, 400 Evacuated After Explosion At LNG Plant

AP | March 31, 2014 9:14 a.m. | Updated: March 31, 2014 4:23 p.m.

A large explosion and fire Monday at a natural gas processing plant on the Washington-Oregon border injured four workers, led to the evacuation of about 400 people from nearby farms and homes, and sent a mushroom cloud of black smoke high into the air

Witnesses reported hearing a large boom and giant mushroom cloud from the explosion Monday morning.

Witnesses reported hearing a large boom and giant mushroom cloud from the explosion Monday morning.

Courtesy Scott Lucas / Via East Oregonian

The 8:20 a.m. blast at the Williams Northwest Pipeline plant in the Washington town of Plymouth, along the Columbia River, also punctured one of the facility’s two giant storage tanks for liquefied natural gas.

Benton County Sheriff Steven Keane said some gas leaked from the tank to the ground in a moat-like containment area and evaporated into the air, blowing away to the northeast. But it was a relatively small amount, he said.

“I think if one of those huge tanks had exploded, it might have been a different story,” Keane said.

One of the four injured workers was transported to a Portland, Ore., hospital specializing in burns, he said. The other three were taken to Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston, Ore., where spokesman Mark Ettesvold said they were treated in the emergency room for injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening.

 

 

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Published time: February 19, 2014 00:53
Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP

Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP

With one person missing and presumed dead in an explosion at a natural gas well in a small Pennsylvania town, the company responsible is now under fire after apparently apologizing to the local community by handing out vouchers for free pizza.

It took five days for emergency crews to safely extinguish a fire that was set by an explosion that shook the small town of Bobtown, located in the far southwestern corner of the state. The blast gave off a loud hissing noise that could be heard from hundreds of yards away.

One resident told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the explosion in a shale formation where Chevron Corp. has spent time fracking “sounded like a jet engine going five feet above your house.” John Kuis, 57, of nearby Dilliner said his dog started growling unusually at 6:45 a.m. on February 11 “then the house just sort of shock and there was a big loud bang.”

At least one employee who was working on the rig has not been found and is widely thought to have been killed – either in the initial explosion or during the five days the flames burned. Another worker was injured in the event.

Chevron has denied any knowledge of what caused the explosion. Company spokesman Ken Robertson told the local ABC affiliate that workers were preparing to run tubing, which is done when wells are being readied for production, and that “there is not enough fuel being emitted to sustain combustion, and with the cooling of the crane, the ignition source has been removed.”

The Philadelphia Daily News has since discovered that residents of Bobtown – a census-designated community of fewer than 1,000 people that revolves mostly around coal mining – have started receiving coupons for one free pizza and a two-liter of soda from the local Bobtown pizza.

Chevron recognizes the effect this has had on the community,” the company said on its website. “We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations. We are committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbors, our employees, our contractors and the environment.”

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- Jon Queally, staff writer

Almost half (47%) of all U.S. wells are being developed in regions with high to extremely high water stress. This means that more than 80 percent of the annual available water is already allocated to municipal, industrial and agricultural users in these regions. (Source: Ceres)The irony of fracking: It destroys the natural resource it needs most. The tragedy for those living nearby fracking operations: That natural resource is the fresh—and increasingly scarce—water supply on which they, too, depend.

And not only does fracking—or hydraulic fracturing—demand enormous amounts of fresh water no matter where it takes places, a troubling new study released Wednesday found that a majority of places where the controversial drilling technique is most prevalent are the same regions where less and less water is available.

Overlay the regions where most of the fracking is being done in North American with the places experiencing the most troubling and persistent water resource problems and the resulting picture becomes an alarm bell as politicians and the fossil fuel industry continue to push fracking expansion as the savior for the U.S. and Canada’s energy woes.

According to the report, Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers (pdf), produced by the non-profit Ceres investor network, much of the oil and gas fracking activity in both the U.S. and Canada is happening in “arid, water stressed regions, creating significant long-term water sourcing risks” that will strongly and negatively impact the local ecosystem, communities, and people living nearby.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Ceres President Mindy Lubber, in announcing Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers. “Barring stiffer water-use regulations and improved on-the-ground practices, the industry’s water needs in many regions are on a collision course with other water users, especially agriculture and municipal water use.”

Richard Heinberg, senior fellow of the California-based Post Carbon Institute and author of a recent book on the “false promise” of the fracking industry, says the irony of the study’s findings “would be delicious if it weren’t so terrifying.”

“Nationally,” according to Heinberg, “only about 50 percent of fracking wastewater is recycled. Billions of gallons of freshwater are still taken from rivers, streams, and wells annually for this purpose, and—after being irremediably polluted—this water usually ends up being injected into deep disposal wells. That means it is no longer available to the hydrological cycle that sustains all terrestrial life.”

Click here to look at Ceres’ interactive map on fracking and water use.

The study drew on industry data detailing water usage from from 39,294 oil and gas wells from January 2011 through May 2013 and compared that information with “water stress indicator maps” developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

What it found:

Over 55 percent of the wells hydraulically fractured were in areas experiencing drought and 36 percent overlay regions with significant groundwater depletion – key among those, California which is in the midst of a historic drought and Texas, which has the highest concentration of shale energy development and hydraulic fracturing activity in the U.S.

Specifically:

In Texas, which includes the rapidly developing Eagle Ford and Permian Basin shale plays, more than half (52 percent) of the wells were in high or extreme high water stress areas. In Colorado and California, 97 and 96 percent of the wells, respectively, were in regions with high or extremely high water stress. Nearly comparable trends were also shown in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Among hundreds of hydraulic fracturing companies whose water use was evaluated, those with the highest exposure to water sourcing risk are Anadarako (APC), Encana (ECA), Pioneer (PXD) and Apache (APA). Most of the wells being developed by each of these companies are in regions of high or extreme water stress. The top three service providers, Halliburton, (HAL) Schlumberger (SLB) and Baker Hughes (BHI), handled about half of the water used for hydraulic fracturing nationally and also face water sourcing risks.

Although water use for hydraulic fracturing is often less than two percent of state water demands, the impacts can be large at the local level, sometimes exceeding the water used by all of the residents in a county.

“It’s a wake-up call,” Professor James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine, told the Guardian. “We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimise any damage.”

The irony of the latest findings, explained Heinberg in an email to Common Dreams, is based on the fact that “much of the fracking boom is centered in the western United States—Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California—which just happens to be drying up, likely as a result of climate change. And that climate change, in turn, is happening because we’re burning fossil fuels like oil and natural gas.”

Heinberg observed that the Ceres report is largely written from the standpoint of the oil and gas companies—using much of their data—and directed at those who may be invested or would like to invest in the continuation or proliferation of the industry. However, he indicated, detailing the increasing difficulties the industry and its investors are likely to experience in sourcing water for their operations is still valuable for those opposed to fracking.

“In California, where I live,” he said, “we’re experiencing a 500-year drought. The grape-wine industry here in Sonoma County is facing disaster. Farmers in the Central Valley are weighing whether to plant at all this year. The fact that California’s Democratic governor [Jerry Brown] wants to spend what little water we have on fracking—which will only make our climate problems worse—makes the report frighteningly relevant.”

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TheGuardian

Published on Dec 19, 2013

Fracking in Texas: the real cost

Subscribe to the Guardian HERE: http://bitly.com/UvkFpD

In north Texas, the pumping heart of the oil and gas industry, an energy company are drilling five wells behind Veronica Kronvall’s home. The closest two are within 300ft of her tiny patch of garden, and their green pipes and tanks loom over the fence. As the drilling began, Kronvall, 52, began to suffer nosebleeds, nausea and headaches. Her home lost nearly a quarter of its value and some of her neighbours went into foreclosure

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Christina Mills in Ponder, Texas As well as struggling with the noise and smells, Christina Mills says, there was the dust: ‘It took the paint off my car.’ Photograph: Deia Schlosberg for the Guardian

Fracking hell: what it’s really like to live next to a shale gas well

Nausea, headaches and nosebleeds, invasive chemical smells, constant drilling, slumping property prices – welcome to Ponder, Texas, where fracking has overtaken the town. With the chancellor last week announcing tax breaks for drilling companies, could the UK be facing the same fate?

Link to video: Fracking in Ponder, Texas: the real cost

Veronica Kronvall can, even now, remember how excited she felt about buying her house in 2007. It was the first home she had ever owned and, to celebrate, her aunt fitted out the kitchen in Kronvall’s favourite colour, purple: everything from microwave to mixing bowls. A cousin took pictures of her lying on the floor of the room that would become her bedroom. She planted roses and told herself she would learn how to garden.

What Kronvall did not imagine at the time – even here in north Texas, the pumping heart of the oil and gas industry – was that four years later an energy company would drill five wells behind her home. The closest two are within 300ft of her tiny patch of garden, and their green pipes and tanks loom over the fence. As the drilling began, Kronvall, 52, began having nosebleeds, nausea and headaches. Her home lost nearly a quarter of its value and some of her neighbours went into foreclosure. “It turned a peaceful little life into a bit of a nightmare,” she says.

Energy analysts in the US have been as surprised as Kronvall at how fast fracking has proliferated. Until five years ago, America’s oil and gas production had been in steady decline as reservoirs of conventional sources dried up. Then a Texas driller, George Mitchell, began trying out new technologies on the Barnett Shale, the geological formation that lies under the city of Fort Worth, Texas, and the smaller towns to the north, where Kronvall lives. Mitchell did not invent the technique. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was first used in the 1940s to get the gas out of conventional wells. As the well shaft descended into the layer of shale, the driller would blast 2m-4m gallons of water, sand and a cocktail of chemicals down the shaft at high pressure, creating thousands of tiny cracks in the rock to free the gas.

Mitchell’s innovation was to combine the technology with directional drilling, turning a downward drill bit at a 90-degree angle to drill parallel to the ground for thousands of feet. It took him more than 15 years of drilling holes all over the Barnett Shale to come up with the right mix of water and chemicals, but eventually he found a way to make it commercially viable to get at the methane in the tightly bound layers of shale. The new technology has turned the Barnett Shale into the largest producible reserve of onshore natural gas in the US. Other operators, borrowing from Mitchell’s work, began drilling in Colorado, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and, most recently, California. More than 15 million Americans now live within a mile of an oil or gas well, 6 million of them in Texas.

The industry has been quick to publicise fracking’s apparent benefits. Electricity and heating costs have dropped. The activity from the oil and gas sector has helped buoy up an ailing national economy and paid for new schools in country towns. Last October, the US produced more oil at home than it imported for the first time since 1995.

New evidence, however, has begun to emerge that fracking, while reducing coal consumption, is not significantly curtailing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Campaigners warn that fracking is binding the US even more tightly to a fossil-fuel future and deepening the risks of climate change. There have been stories from homeowners of fracking chemicals seeping into their drinking water, video footage of flames shooting out of kitchen taps because of methane leaks. Companies have been fined for releasing radioactive waste into rivers.

In north Texas, where Kronvall lives, the number of new oil and gas wells has gone up by nearly 800% since 2000. It’s impossible to drive for any length of time without seeing the signs, even after the rigs have moved on elsewhere: the empty squares of flattened earth, the arrays of condensate tanks, the compressor stations and pipelines, and large open pits of waste water. Virtually no site is off limits. Energy companies have fracked wells on church property, school grounds and in gated developments. Last November, an oil company put a well on the campus of the University of North Texas in nearby Denton, right next to the tennis courts and across the road from the main sports stadium and a stand of giant wind turbines. In Texas, as in much of America, property owners do not always own the “mineral rights” – the rights to underground resources – so typically have limited say over how they are developed.

Kronvall moved from the Fort Worth area to the small farming town of Ponder – population: 1,400 – for the peace and quiet, and the affordable house prices; it also meant a fairly easy commute to her job at the survey research centre at the University of North Texas. Wesley and Beth Howard moved into the Remington Park neighbourhood in the same year, two doors down, after making a similar calculation. It was close to where Beth works as a graphic designer at Texas Woman’s University. Wesley, 41, a support engineer at IBM, works from home. The neighbourhood was still only partially built, but the developers said they were planning 150 new homes, a park and walking trails on the meadow behind their house. “This was the first home we had together,” Wesley says. “We looked at being here for a good couple of decades. It was our expectation and our hope that this would grow and property values would improve and services would come up.”

In February 2011, Beth, 31, had just found out she was pregnant when the couple noticed some wooden stakes with fluttering bright plastic strips had gone up in the meadow behind their home.

Kronvall had seen them, too, and assumed workers were staking out cul-de-sacs for the next phase of homes. She was away at a work conference in May 2011 when she got a call from another neighbour: crews had arrived with heavy earth-moving equipment. The meadow was about to be drilled for a well.

None of the neighbours received any official notice, either from the energy company or the town authorities. “The law at the time didn’t require them to tell us or give any public notice or anything,” Wesley says. “They could just spring it on us as a surprise, and so they did.” At that time, Texas law did not require companies to disclose which chemicals they were using to frack the well. Residents say that, to this day, none of them has any idea, though there is now a voluntary chemical disclosure registry at fracfocus.org.

The crews proceeded to flatten the earth and install a 200ft red and white drilling tower that loomed high above their homes. Convoys of articulated lorries rumbled down the main road. “It was terrible,” Kronvall says. “There was a lot of banging and clanging. The number of trucks was just phenomenal, and the exhaust, the fumes in the air, it was 24/7.”

She says the activities on the other side of her fence deposited a layer of white powder on her counter tops. The sound of the crew shouting into megaphones invaded her bedroom. Bright lighting pierced her curtains and made it difficult to sleep. The rumble of trucks and equipment rattled the glasses in her cupboard, and the smell – an acrid blend of chemicals – was all-pervasive.

“My wife was pregnant the whole time the rig was there,” Wesley says. There was the din of diesel generators belching soot, and a nauseating mix of chemicals competing with the aroma of dinner. The noise and smells penetrated to the next street over, where Christina Mills lives. Like the Howards and Kronvall, Mills, 65, was attracted to Ponder because of its sleepiness, and bought the fourth house built in the entire development when she moved to the town in 2001. “But when that derrick was up, you would have thought you were in Las Vegas,” she says, “and I live one street over.”

Devon Energy Corporation, the firm drilling behind their homes, did install a sound curtain to try to buffer the noise. Devon – which bought out George Mitchell and has become one of the biggest operators in the extraction of shale gas – says it is committed to supporting residents. “We are always working to find new and better ways to do what we do with the smallest possible impact that we can have on our neighbours,” says Tim Hartley, a Devon spokesman. “Wherever we are, we want to have a healthy, safe, best-in-class operation, so we are committed to that and we have delivered that in the Barnett Shale area for many years.”

The curtain did little to muffle the sound or reduce the other effects of fracking, say residents. The Howards’ baby, Pike, arrived several weeks early. The couple say there is no way of knowing whether that was connected to the fracking, but they were very nervous about exposing him to possible chemicals from the process. “He was in really good health, but he was still a newborn,” Wesley says. “When you can smell diesel exhaust and you have got other unusual odours, and all the things you don’t know about what is going on with industrial stuff, it can be stressful. We didn’t know what we were breathing in at any given time, and he was breathing it, too. It was what made his homecoming so stressful.”

Two doors down, Kronvall says, her eyes watered constantly when she was at home, stopping only after she had been at work for an hour or two. As well as bouts of nausea and low, throbbing headaches, there was blood when she blew her nose. “I had nosebleeds pretty much throughout the entire process,” she says.

Devon says it is not aware of any complaints about health problems suffered after it began its activities at Remington Park, though company representatives attended public meetings from 2011, and were accused by residents of being dismissive of health concerns. In response, Hartley has said, “It would be inappropriate for us to publicly discuss asserted claims.”

As well as struggling with the noise and smells, Christina Mills says, there was the dust. One morning she found a gritty white powder all over her car, so she stopped at a car wash on the drive to work. “I went there to wash the stuff off, and the black paint came off with it,” she says, still shocked at the memory. “It took the paint off my car.”

The three neighbours all tried to stop the fracking, or at least get compensation. They sought legal advice and appealed to the town authorities and state environmental regulators. Inspectors for the Texas environmental regulator came out to Kronvall’s home, commiserated about the smell and collected air samples, only to report back weeks later that they were unable to detect dangerous emissions.

 

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Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Although TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has received the lion’s share of media attention, another key border-crossing pipeline benefitting tar sands producers was approved on November 19 by the U.S. State Department.

Enter Cochin, Kinder Morgan’s 1,900-mile proposed pipeline to transport gas produced via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas north through Kankakee, Illinois, and eventually into Alberta, Canada, the home of the tar sands.

Like Keystone XL, the pipeline proposal requires U.S. State Department approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border. Unlike Keystone XL – which would carry diluted tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) south to the Gulf Coast – Kinder Morgan’s Cochin pipeline would carry the gas condensate (diluent) used to dilute the bitumen north to the tar sands.

“The decision allows Kinder Morgan Cochin LLC to proceed with a $260 million plan to reverse and expand an existing pipeline to carry an initial 95,000 barrels a day of condensate,” the Financial Post wrote.

“The extra-thick oil is typically cut with 30% condensate so it can move in pipelines. By 2035, producers could require 893,000 barrels a day of the ultra-light oil, with imports making up 786,000 barrels of the total.”

Increased demand for diluent among Alberta’s tar sands producers has created a growing market for U.S. producers of natural gas liquids, particularly for fracked gas producers.

“Total US natural gasoline exports reached a record volume of 179,000 barrels per day in February as Canada’s thirst for oil sand diluent ramped up,” explained a May 2013 article appearing in Platts. “US natural gasoline production is forecast to increase to roughly 450,000 b/d by 2020.”

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RT

 

Published on Nov 23, 2013

Protesting could soon become a thing of luxury at any drill site in the United States – courtesy of new laws co-crafted by the oil lobby. Aside from forcing demonstrators to shell out 5 thousand dollars for a rally permit… the bill would also excuse the federal government from regulating the fracking industry. Gayane Chichakyan reports.

RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-air

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(C) Desert Rose Creations/Family Survival Protocol  2013Ethanol Sign 2 photo ethanolsign2_zps0d43f94d.jpg

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The Associated Press is running a terrific and long investigative article, “The Secret, Dirty Cost of Obama’s Green Power Push,” on the environmental downsides of the ethanol fuel mandate. From the AP…

…the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.

Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama’s watch.

Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.

Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can’t survive.

The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.

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SHAKE AND BLOW

Below-ground gas injection linked to Texas quakes

 

 

 

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 04, 2013
A method of storing harmful greenhouse gases by injecting them below ground has likely triggered a series of earthquakes in Texas, some larger than magnitude 3, a US study said Monday.

The findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences mark the first time that carbon storage has been linked to temblors ranging from 3.0 to 4.4 in severity.

Researchers warned last year in the same journal that carbon capture and storage risked causing earthquakes, but there had been no direct evidence of such quakes until now.

The study focused on seismic activity in petroleum fields in Scurry and Kent Counties in northwest Texas, known as the Cogdell and Kelly-Snyder oil fields.

A process called water flooding was used in the Cogdell field to boost oil production from 1957 to 1982, and previous research has found that the practice caused small quakes in the area from 1975 to 1982.

More recently, methane and CO2 have been injected into the oil field at high volumes, said the research by Wei Gan and Cliff Frohlich at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics.

 

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By Tom Kenworthy on October 30, 2013 at 11:59 am

Merrily Mazza, right, asks Lafayette, Colorado voter Kat Goldberg to support a ballot question that would ban drilling for oil and gas in the community.

Merrily Mazza, right, asks Lafayette, Colorado voter Kat Goldberg to support a ballot question that would ban drilling for oil and gas in the community.

CREDIT: Tom Kenworthy

LAFAYETTE, COLORADO — On a recent Saturday, buoyed by picture-perfect autumn weather, Merrily Mazza was knocking on doors in her adopted community on Colorado’s booming Front Range north of Denver. The Chicago transplant and retired McGraw-Hill executive is running for city council in next week’s city election and she’s looking for votes.

But her own campaign was not her first priority that day. Her primary assignment was chasing down potential supporters of a ballot measure that would establish a “Community Bill of Rights” in Lafayette — and ban oil and gas drilling within city limits.

Mazza and volunteers like her in Lafayette and three other Colorado cities that will next week determine the fate of ballot initiatives to block oil and gas drilling are at the forefront of what is fast becoming an epic battle. At issue is whether communities have the authority to regulate drilling and fracking within their borders or whether that power rests solely with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

co frack ban-01At one of Mazza’s first stops, on South Carr Avenue, Kat Goldberg answered the doorbell. Hearing Mazza’s pitch against the oil and gas extraction technique known as fracking, Goldberg said: “I’m not keen on it. I have three kids and I’d like the environment to be sustainable for my kids and their kids. I don’t think fracking is a good thing to be doing.”

The recent unprecedented flooding in Colorado, which resulted in oil and gas spills totaling more than 40,000 gallons, has intensified concerns among residents and activists about the impact of oil and gas drilling and the state’s ability to safely regulate it.

Less than a year after the Colorado oil and gas industry’s trade association sued the city of Longmont over a similar ban on fracking, and only a few months after the state government run by Gov. John Hickenlooper joined the association in suing that city, activists in four communities in Colorado are nonetheless pressing ahead with ballot initiatives that would ban or impose moratoria on drilling and fracking.

The looming November showdown in those communities reflects mounting concern over a boom in oil and gas development closing in on suburbs and cities along Colorado’s Front Range, the heavily populated region that abuts the foothills of the Rockies stretching from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins. In Weld County, to the east of the four communities that will vote on anti-fracking ballot measures, there are now more than 20,000 oil and gas wells, about 40 percent of the state total.

 

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