Thursday, October 20, 2011

Earthbytes: EPA announces schedule to develop natural gas wastewater standards

Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its schedule to develop standards for wastewater discharges produced by natural gas extraction from underground coalbed and shale formations.

Right now we don't have national standards for disposal of wastewater discharged from natural gas extraction activities -- a fact that has been of concern to citizens and activists for many years.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FWS releases plan to combat white-nose syndrome in bats

The Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today unveiled a national management plan to address the threat posed by white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than a million hibernating bats in eastern North America since it was discovered near Albany, New York in 2006.

“Having spread to 18 states and four Canadian provinces, white-nose syndrome threatens far-reaching ecological and economic impacts,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “We’ve learned a lot in the past few years about the disease, but there is much more work to be done to contain it. This national plan provides a road map for federal, state, and tribal agencies and scientific researchers to follow and will facilitate sharing of resources and information to more efficiently address the threat.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

WVU Study Finds Poorer Health Near Mountaintop Mining -

WVU Study Finds Poorer Health Near Mountaintop Mining - WBOY-TV - "A new study conducted by the West Virginia University School of Medicine finds poorer health in Appalachian counties where coal is mined, especially those with mountaintop mining operations.

The study, “Health-Related Quality of Life Among Central Appalachian Residents in Mountaintop Mining Counties” appears in the May issue of the “American Journal of Public Health.”"

Monday, May 9, 2011

Environmental Illness in U.S. Kids Cost $76.6 Billion in One Year

Environmental Illness in U.S. Kids Cost $76.6 Billion in One Year: "It cost a 'staggering' $76.6 billion to cover the health expenses of American children who were sick because of exposure to toxic chemicals and air pollutants in 2008, according to new research by senior scientists at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Published in the May issue of the journal 'Health Affairs,' three new studies by Mount Sinai scientists reveal the economic impact of toxic chemicals and air pollutants in the environment, and propose new legislation to require testing of new chemicals as well as those already on the market."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking Newsrooms

This article by John Sullivan (ProPublica, co-published with the Columbia Journalism Review) talks about consequences of shifts in journalism as well as the history of the public relations field. Here's an excerpt:

The Gulf oil spill [3] was 2010's biggest story, so when David Barstow walked into a Houston hotel for last December's hearings on the disaster, he wasn't surprised to see that the conference room was packed. Calling the hearing to order, Coast Guard Captain Hung Nguyen cautioned the throng, "We will continue to allow full media coverage as long as it does not interfere with the rights of the parties to a fair hearing and does not unduly distract from the solemnity, decorum, and dignity of the proceedings." It's a stock warning that every judge gives before an important trial, intended to protect witnesses from a hounding press. But Nguyen might have been worrying too much. Because as Barstow realized as he glanced across the crowd, most of the people busily scribbling notes in the room were not there to ask questions. They were there to answer them.(Read the whole story...)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day Challenge: Help monitor nature's responses to climate change - HollerPhenology

Earth Day Challenge: Help monitor nature's responses to climate change - HollerPhenology: "Ultimately, we and all these other living beings are in this situation on Earth together. That's why I'm putting out this Earth Day challenge to anyone reading this blog who hasn't already signed up for the Nature's Notebook project.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells in the Gulf and Elsewhere

Citizen groups in Tennessee recently took on a quest for adequate oil and gas regulations. One of the issues is that of abandoned or "orphan" wells. I found an article about 3,200 abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico today at Common Dreams:

The unplugged wells haven't been used for at least five years, and there are no plans to restore production on them, according to the federal government. Operators have not been required to plug the wells because their leases have not expired.

As a result, there is little to prevent powerful leaks from pushing to the surface. Even depleted wells can repressurize from work on nearby wells or shifts in oil or gas layers beneath the surface, petroleum engineers say. But no one is watching to make sure that doesn't happen.

The addition of the unused but officially active wells, as documented in a list provided to the AP by federal officials under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, means at least three-fifths of the 50,000 wells ever drilled in the Gulf have been left behind with no routine monitoring for leaks.

In a great article earlier this month, Nicholas Kusnetz (ProPublica/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)said that in the last 150 years, U.S. drillers have poked as many as 12 million holes into the Earth in search of oil and gas. While many of these wells were plugged after they stopped producing, thousands were abandoned. For many of these wells, no records were kept, so it would be hard now to find them all. Kusnetz explains why this is a big problem:

Government reports have warned for decades that abandoned wells can provide pathways for oil, gas or brine-laden water to contaminate groundwater supplies or to travel up to the surface.

New wells sometimes disturb layers of rock and dirt near fragile old wells, leading to new cases of contamination. For Pennsylvania and other states sitting on top of the Marcellus Shale formation, the rapid growth of gas drilling may increase the danger of such contamination.

Abandoned wells have polluted the drinking water source for Fort Knox, Ky., and leaked oil into water wells in Ohio and Michigan. Similar problems have occurred in Texas, New York, Colorado and other states where drilling has occurred.

Citizens and groups concerned about Tennessee's abandoned wells will ask the Tennessee Department of Environment to address this and other problems as the agency revises the state's oil and gas regulations.

TDEC will hold a public hearing on proposed regulations on April 28th at 6pm at the TDEC office at 3711 Middlebrook Pike in Knoxville.

Groups hoping to get stronger regulations for abandoned wells, hydrofracking, casing standards and other oil and gas well drilling issues will hold a People's Hearing at 5pm, prior to the public hearing at the same location. For more information see the event page on Facebook

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cost-Cutting at the Environment's Peril | AlterNet

Cost-Cutting at the Environment's Peril | AlterNet:

"One idea driving these decisions is that, economically, the country can’t afford to protect the environment right now. But as Monica Potts argues at The American Prospect, in a review of two new books that cover the economy and the environment, green policies are good for business. In reviewing Climate Capitalism by L. Hunter Lovins and Boyd Cohen, Potts notes that “$2.8 billion a year is wasted because employees don’t turn off their computers when they leave work; comprehensive clean-energy and climate legislation could create 1.9 million jobs; improving indoor air quality could save businesses $200 billion annually in energy costs.”"