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.”"