Sunday, February 23, 2014

Colorado Says YES to Strict Air Emission Rules for Drilling!

An important, and long overdue decision, because, consider this from an alarming story published in 2012 in The Nation. Full text here.
"At almost every stage of developing and operating an oil or gas well, chemicals and compounds can be introduced into the environment. Radioactive material above background levels has been detected in air, soil and water at or near gas-drilling sites. Volatile organic compounds—including benzene, toluene, ethylene and xylene—waft from flares, engines, compressors, pipelines, flanges, open tanks, spills and ponds....inhalation exposure is linked to cancer and organ damage."

From the Greeley Tribune: Colorado panel OKs new oil, gas drilling emissions rules

AURORA — Colorado air quality officials have approved a sweeping plan to reduce air pollution from oil and gas drilling. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission voted 8-1 Sunday to enact new rules for drillers, including the nation’s first statewide limit on methane emissions. The panel’s decision comes after a public hearing in Aurora that began Wednesday. State officials say the updated rules will dramatically reduce emissions of the gases that contribute to ozone pollution.
“This is a great day for residents living in the oil and gas producing areas in Colorado. The new regulations will significantly reduce air pollution that causes ground-level ozone and those hazardous pollutants that are also known to cause impacts to public health.” said Sara Barwinski, a member of Weld Air and Water, who also testified during the hearing on Friday.

In addition to the limits on methane, the rules require companies operating in Colorado to install the latest valves and auto-igniters to minimize emissions of toxic gases. Companies would have to capture or control 95 percent of emissions, using vapor-recovery tanks or other technology.

Companies also would have to inspect facilities for leaks up to once per month, depending on how many tons of pollution the facilities emit. Leaks would have to be fixed in about 15 days. The state has conservatively come up with a $42.5 million price tag for those in the industry to comply with the rules, while others believe it will be much higher, potentially $100 million per year.

Large energy producers have backed the plan, though some industry groups say the new rules unfairly burden small companies. “Oil and gas operators in Colorado strive to protect the health and safety of our communities and environment every day; after all, these are the communities where we are raising our families,” said Doug Flanders, director of policy and external affairs for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, in a news release.

“The new rules accomplish much, which we support. Unfortunately, we were not successful in ensuring that the rule accommodates the differences in basins and operators. Nevertheless, we are committed to working with our operators, our communities and the state to successfully and effectively implement these rules.” 

Three of the largest operators in Weld County and Colorado at large — Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy and Encana — expressed support for the rules earlier this month, while the commission was in the process of formulating the requirements.

“This proposal represents a model for the nation, by demonstrating … we all can develop solutions together,” said Robin Olsen of Anadarko during a meeting with media earlier this month. “We recognize the … regulations in Colorado help establish accountability for all companies, and builds public trust. It’s the right thing to do for business and the environment. It’s ambitious and sensible.”

 Added Curtis Rueter, a manager with Noble: “We all want clean air, we want to find leaks and we think the technology is there. And, ultimately, it’s the right thing to do.” Korby Bracken, environmental health and safety director for Anadarko, said the rules need not carry huge price tags for smaller companies. He said there are tools available to all oil and gas companies through the Regional Air Quality Control Council, for example, through which operators can check out an infrared camera like a library book.

Platteville-based Synergy Resources, one of the smaller oil and gas operators, signed off on the rules while they were being constructed earlier this month. “We see it as a part of the cost of doing business, with wanting to be good neighbors and keep the environment safe,” said Craig Rasmuson, COO of Synergy’s self-inspection program, earlier this month.

Barwinski also praised the cooperation between the energy industry and environmentalist groups to establish the new rules. “The fact that oil and gas companies — both large and small — supported these rules shows that the industry can comply with strong environmental controls that protect public health and still make money in Colorado,” Barwinski said in the news release. “This collaborative process should be a model moving forward.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a statement Sunday evening on the passing of the new rules. “Colorado is proving once again that collaboration and compromise help solve important issues facing our state,” Hickenlooper said in a news release. “The new rules approved by Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission, after taking input from varied and often conflicting interests, will ensure Colorado has the cleanest and safest oil and gas industry in the country and help preserve jobs.”

Hickenlooper will talk about the new rules at a Tuesday news conference at the state Capitol, where he will be joined by representatives from the environmental community and the energy industry. “We want to thank the environmental community, the energy industry and our state agencies for working together so hard to take this significant step forward,” Hickenlooper said in the release. “All Coloradans deserve a healthy economy and a healthy environment, and we’re working to ensure that Colorado continues to have both.”

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Oil and Gas Workers Not Protected Against Hazards

I have heard about this before, about workers not being fully informed of, or protected against, the hazards of dealing with toxic fumes and materials at fracking sites in Dr. Theo Colborn's 45 min. documentary:

What You Need to Know About Natural Gas Production

I asked my brother-in-law about her video, and the clip below. He's worked in the gas fields for decades, checking gas wells, and was recently diagnosed with asthma. He is now VP at a well completion (euphemism for fracking fluid) company. He responded with:

"..just watched the video and can't believe that this is what we are discussing. First of all the oilfield is mandated as well as most other entities by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Do you really believe that OSHA would not be going crazy if this were true. we are the most regulated industry in the United States no matter what you hear or believe. If you do not believe it read the OSHA regs as they apply to the oilfield. 
Pay close attention to the rules on confined space entry (which is what this gentleman is talking about when cleaning tanks or pits). Also in Weld County the emissions from all wells have to meet standards and as far as I know they do. I would encourage you to do real research instead of listening to Josh Fox or Matt Damon. 
I consider this a waste of time when OSHA and the EPA apparently aren't credible but this gentleman is. I will tell you this, most of the people in this industry care more for the environment than you will ever know. We hunt, fish, hike and generally spend twice the time outdoors than most of the people you know. I can't change your mind and really don't care to, so I won't debate by e-mail. If you truly want to know the truth when we are together I would be more than glad to talk to you about it."
And, this response by his wife:
"You people that sit around and read something on the internet and decide it's true because you really can't know whether it is or not are AMAZING when it comes to fracing, which is what it was called when we became familiar with it. DO NOT send me anything about what you have read or discovered or think you know about fracing. There are dozens of items in the grocery store that are more harmful to the environment than fracing, so chase some other ambulance. [My husband] is always open to teach and give correct information about fracing, it's his specialty. We shake our heads at what you people come up with when knowledge is as close as your phone. Just because you read it somewhere..."

What do you think? Is the man in this video telling lies?

Description of the video:

"Randy Moyer, who trucked brine from wells to treatment plants and back to wells, now suffers from dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, difficulty breathing, swollen lips and appendages, and a fiery red rash that covered about 50 percent of his body.

The Portage resident believes he's sick from the chemicals in fracking fluid and from radiation exposure. He cites unsafe and unregulated working conditions on well sites, no oversight about safety clothing, breathing masks, or chemical suits. The sites are treated like any other construction site, all that's needed is a hardhat and goggles. But when working with radiation and toxic chemicals from deep underground, adverse health effects are never far behind."

Monday, February 3, 2014

Public Hearing on Colorado Air Quality

On her blog Every Breath You Take, Axum Teklu writes,

"Seeing ozone alert after ozone alert on the news doesn’t make me proud to call Colorado home.

During the meeting last [October] I could hear the fear and worry in peoples’ voices as they pleaded for the commission to protect their health and most of all their childrens’ 
...The wells, storage, and transportation portion of oil and gas produces 168,837 tons of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) per year and is the number one human-caused VOC emitter. The combination of these VOCs with heat from the sun causes ground-level ozone, which negatively affects our health.. 
The Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) has the chance to protect our Colorado air by drafting strong regulations on pollution emitted by oil and gas development".


A Rulemaking Hearing is planned for February 19, 2014 

The Commission will have a designated time to take public comment from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM and from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM for participants that are appearing in person. This is designated for oral comments only.

Written and/or electronic documents must be submitted to the Commission Office by closure of the Public Comment Session or by February 19, 2014.

 Written submissions should be mailed to: 
Colorado Air Quality Control Commission
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South,
 EDO-AQCC-A5 Denver, Colorado 80246

Email submissions should be emailed to: 


The Commission will have a designated time of 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM for participants who are calling in. Each caller will be given a maximum of three minutes. The amount of time may be reduced based upon the number of participants. This phone-in option is intended for persons outside of the Denver Metro Area/Front Range Region who cannot attend in person.  Participants will need to pre-register for this call-in session no later than February 14, 2014. You will be asked to provide the following information: your name, your address, your phone number, an email address if applicable, and the name of a particular group that you may be representing if applicable.

Registration link:

See: Health issues related to fracking
        Hazardous Emissions

Here a sample letter for inspiration:

"It is in our best interest to have statewide air quality protections so Coloradans across the state can breathe the same clean air. Oil and gas development is moving at a record pace - on average, nearly four new wells are drilled per day. It is no coincidence that as oil and gas development increases, Colorado’s air worsens. Air pollution from oil and gas operations is a statewide issue. Most of Colorado’s Front Range violate EPA ozone pollution standards and parts of the West Slope are for the first time exceeding the same EPA air quality standards."

And this one:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Health Hazards of living near Oil and Gas Wells

How often have you heard people who work for Oil & Gas companies say, 

"We are the most regulated industry in the United States"

I would like to know what they base that statement on. Dr. Wilma Subra in her presentation Human Health; Exposure from the Development of Shale Gas, notes that,
"Wastes generated by the exploration of crude oil and natural gas are 'exempt' by Federal law from being regulated as hazardous waste" 

Watch her full presentation here

And then there's the issue of well water contamination by oil and gas drilling activities in Pavillion, Wyoming. The industry is not regulated when it comes to the protection of drinking water supplies either. Says Dan Rather in the second segment of his report:

"Even though the agency is mandated by the Safe Drinking Water Act to monitor the quality of the drinking water across the United States, the EPA has been restricted from testing water near oil and gas fracking sites. That's because the oil and gas industry had some help from Congress in the Bush administration. In the summer of 2005 Congress passes, and president Bush signed the Energy Policy Act. In that bill was a provision that excludes Oil and Gas Companies from the drinking water regulation. It is the only industry to have such an exclusion"
Watch: Dan Rather Reports, "Fracking Gas"

In the report, rancher John Fenton says:

"You don't know how precious water is until you have to start buying it...It's either this or drink water with an unknown toxic chemical in it."

He hauls it in gallon jugs from the town, forty miles away. 
Because of their tainted well water they can no longer grow a garden, and when they launder or shower there needs to be ventilation because of the methane content in the water. In this different clip he says,
"We've done our own sort of health assessment with the help of a woman named Dr. Wilma Subra....She compiled the information for us. And there are some real common problems between the people who have health symptoms: nose bleeds, lack of smell and taste, headaches, dizziness, neuropathy. You know, no matter where you go, people living in close proximity to this, have the same problems..It affects all humans the same no matter where you are from."

Last but not least, a recent health study shows:

"an association between density and proximity of natural gas wells within a 10-mile radius of maternal residence and prevalence of Congenital Heart Defects and possibly Neural Tube Defects. [Most children with neural tube defects die or experience serious disability.]

Access the report here