State regulators have no idea how many oil and gas wells have been fracked in California despite having requested and received $3 million in new funding in 2010 to regulate the practice. Lacking actual data, they insist that drilling companies rarely use the technology in California—a head-in-the-sand stance that has now been contradicted by Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) research showing that fracking has been used in the state since 1953 and is now widespread.
The state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources says it does not plan to monitor or manage use of the technology unless the legislature requires it or the agency is handed “evidence of manifest damage and harm.”
“On the one hand, the Division remains in denial about fracking for oil,” said Bill Allayaud, EWG’s director of government affairs for California. “On the other hand, they ask for and receive funding to regulate it and then don’t do it—and have no plans to do it.”
In hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” drilling companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground under high pressure to release oil or gas trapped in underground formations. EWG’s research documented the use of fracking in six California counties—Kern, Los Angeles, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara and Ventura.
Although the Division of Oil and Gas has reworded its factsheet on fracking multiple times, it has consistently said that practice is “uncommon” or “limited” in the state, repeating this view as recently as February 2012. Focusing on the fact that fracking for gas is thus far relatively uncommon in California, the division takes scant notice of the reality that it has been widely used to extract oil.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently found a number of “program deficiencies” in the state agency’s activities, noting that its regulation of other types of underground injection were inadequate to protect underground drinking water sources.
Since the state does not currently monitor, track or regulate fracking in any way, it can’t possibly know whether the technology is having harmful environmental effects. Congress exempted fracking from federal environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. In the absence of state regulation, California residents have no protection against environmental damage from an industry that acknowledges that fracking carries risks that include spills, leaks, explosions, injury and even death.
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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C. and Oakland, Calif. that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.
The growing Texas solar industry is offering a safe harbor to unemployed oil and gas professionals amidst the latest oil and gas industry bust, this one brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reports.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>