Deep-shale Fracking Comes to Ohio's Pristine Grand River Watershed
Citing concerns over the first deep-shale drilling operation in Ohio's pristine Grand River watershed, conservation groups are calling on state regulators to tighten controls on drilling for oil and gas in Ohio to better protect water, wildlife and property.
The groups want the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to strengthen state rules to protect water resources by:
• broadening the distance that oil and gas drillers are required to test for water quality before and after drilling.
• expand the list of chemicals for which drillers must test for possible water contamination before and after drilling.
• expand the testing to also include water quantity to test for any changes to water flow from a water well or waterway.
The groups also want ODNR to adopt stronger protections to better protect livestock, wildlife, property values and local communities by:
• banning the disposal of toxic-tainted waste materials at drilling site waste pits.
• stepping up testing in nearby streams to protect fish and wildlife from contamination.
• closing the regulatory loophole that permits drillers to ship radioactive-laced drill cutting waste for disposal at solid waste landfills.
• periodically updating regulations to keep pace with industry practices.
• stopping the unfunded mandate on local communities, which have no local authority to regulate drilling but bear much of the costs from traffic, noise and road damage.
"Ohio's rules need to catch up to the shale gas boom spreading across Ohio, starting right here in the Grand River watershed," said Trent Dougherty, director of legal affairs for the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC). "Oil and gas may be basic commodities. But clean water is priceless. That's why we need the ODNR to protect our heritage of abundant water and wildlife resources and our respect for people's property."
Representatives of the OEC, Buckeye Forest Council and the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability & Protection (NEOGAP) briefed reporters on Jan. 5 at the Middlefield public library in Northeast Ohio's Geauga County. The groups cited a deep shale-gas well located less than 1,500 feet from a tributary of the Grand River—a site that could be the first of hundreds or thousands such wells to eventually dot the Grand River watershed landscape. Drillers set up operations at the site just a few weeks ago.
The Grand River represents one of the finest examples of a natural stream found anywhere in Ohio. According to the ODNR, the Grand River boasts "the most aquatic diversity of any Ohio Lake Erie tributary." The Grand River is designated as an official State Wild and Scenic River and is an angler's paradise—some 90,000 steelhead trout are stocked there each year. Ohio law, however, provides no additional protections from drilling for a State Wild and Scenic River, such as minimum distance set-backs from a drilling site.
The new well, near Parkman, Ohio, is located just a 15 minute drive east of the site of one of the most destructive failures by the oil and gas industry to follow its own best practices—and a colossal lapse of government oversight. Early in the morning on Dec. 15, 2007, natural gas migrated from a natural gas well to the basement of a house in Bainbridge Township. A resulting explosion rocked the house. Thankfully, the two residents in the home were not seriously injured, but the home was severely damaged and dozens of other residential water wells were contaminated.
State investigators determined the gas migration and resulting explosion was caused by over-pressurization of the surface-production casing of the gas well. In layperson's terms, the explosion was the result of poor well construction. This explosion resulted in water well contamination, a lawsuit by 42 neighboring property owners, a year-long investigation by ODNR and the biggest overhaul of the state's oil and gas drilling laws—Ohio Senate Bill 165, passed by the Ohio General Assembly in 2010. The well was located less than 1,000 feet from the house.
Under current Ohio law, a drilling operation may be located as close as 150 feet from an occupied residence. The ODNR is currently developing new regulations to implement the law changes.
In the four years since the Bainbridge event, however, Ohio faces a different form of oil and gas production—the industrial-scale drilling for shale gas. This unconventional drilling involves the use of hundreds of different chemical additives and the disposal of literally billions of gallons of toxic-tainted wastewater from Ohio and neighboring Pennsylvania oil and gas wells.
"Ohio is outdriving its headlights when it comes to identifying and controlling the risks of the shale gas boom," said the OEC's Dougherty. "Ohio is permitting the next generation of wells without first fixing the ills of last generation's risks."
The new generation of drilling, commonly referred to as horizontal hydro-fracking or "fracking," uses high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals to release gas and oil trapped in shale formations located thousands of feet below the earth's surface. After drilling vertically to the depth that reaches slightly above the shale formation, the drill bit is turned horizontally and pushed into the shale, sometimes as much as 3,000 feet. Small fractures are created in the targeted area with underground explosions and a mixture of sand, water and chemicals is injected at high pressures into the newly created fractures to further crack the rock and release the trapped gas.
To exploit the deep natural gas-rich deposits in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations, operators must drill and frack like never before. This scale of drilling requires more of everything: more acreage (5 acres cleared per well pad); more chemicals to stimulate production; more fresh water (up to 5 million gallons per fracking cycle) and more truck traffic (up to 13,000 diesel truck trips per well site).
The calls for reform are hard on the heels of a series of 11 earthquakes recorded since March 2011 near Youngstown. Two large earthquakes occurred in December, causing state regulators to ask the operator to cease injecting waste there. ODNR and the well operator appropriately halted operation of injection wells in the area until scientists could analyze the situation. Scientists from Columbia University believe the earthquakes almost certainly were caused by the high-pressure injection of oil and gas waste fluids into a deep underground disposal well located nearby. These experts say that it may take a year for the waste injection rumblings to dissipate.
The environmental groups calling for reform believe Ohio should follow the same sound advice for the entire oil and gas production process—from exploration and production to waste disposal—to ensure that the best regulations are in place to protect the public, property owners, water and wildlife.
"The earthquakes in Youngstown, if nothing else, show that there are countless risks with deep shale drilling. While there will be risks with everything in life, how much risk is acceptable?" Dougherty asked.
In response to these risks, the groups are renewing their call first made in March 2011 for a moratorium on any new deep-shale drilling until drilling practices are demonstrated to be safe for the environment and human health and are properly regulated.
"Ohio's oil and gas laws are deeply flawed in many respects. The spraying of toxic fracking wastewater on community roads, weak to non-existent water well testing requirements and lax wastewater containment rules are just a few examples," said Ellie Rauh, fracking coordinator for Buckeye Forest Council. "The Ohio Division of Oil and Gas can make and enforce rules that fix these problems and that better protect Ohioan's health and the environment. Although the division is currently rewriting its rules, it has not yet addressed any of the crucial health and safety problems that should greatly concern the public. We call on the Ohio Division of Oil and Gas to fill the holes in its regulations and to draft a sensible and protective set of rules."
"With all the fracking that's starting up in Ohio, we are concerned that no one in our state government is really working to effectively safeguard Ohio's most precious natural resource—our safe drinking water," said Ron Prosek, NEOGAP vice president.
"Natural gas can be a bridge fuel to cleaner sources of energy. But the way we're going, Ohio is building a bridge to unknown risk and danger," added Dougherty.
For more information, click here.
The mission of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is to secure healthy air, land and water for all who call Ohio home. The OEC is Ohio’s leading advocate for fresh air, clean water and sustainable land use. The OEC has a 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles and statewide partnerships, the OEC secures a healthier environment for Ohio’s families and communities. For more information, visit www.theOEC.org.
By Paul Brown
It may come as a surprise to realize that a plant struggling for survival in a harsh environment is also doing its bit to save the planet from the threats of the rapidly changing climate. But that's what Mexico's cactuses are managing to do.
Research published in the journal The Science of Nature shows that desert soils supporting a high density of cactus contain large quantities of stored bio-minerals (minerals produced by living organisms), formed by the action of the plants in extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Not only that. Cactuses can also be harvested, processed and turned into a form of leather used to make fashion accessories like purses and wallets.
These two attributes have been turned into a successful business by a Mexican/American company, CACTO. It claims to be the first "carbon negative fashion company in the Americas" − in other words, its activities remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it creates in making and marketing its products.
No Animals Involved
This is a bold claim in an industry struggling with its poor environmental record. According to McKinsey and Co. the worldwide fashion industry emits about the same amount of greenhouse gases as France, Germany and the United Kingdom combined. But CACTO gives Mexico's cactuses special treatment.
CACTO's products are vegan and so allow a growing class of consumers to buy leather objects that are made without any animal products.
The research into the ability of cactus to extract carbon from the atmosphere and store it was carried out on one cactus species, the saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), which can grow to 40 feet.
It is native to the Sonoran desert in Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora, and shares with all other cactus varieties the same abilities for dealing with carbon. This has proved a bonus for CACTO because cactuses are the most numerous plants in Mexico.
CACTO's plantations are organic, fed by rainwater, free of herbicides and pesticides, and renewable, and after the ears, or leaves; of the cactus are harvested, the plant grows a replacement in six to eight months. This regeneration allows repeat harvesting. The leaves are then sun-dried to avoid using any electricity. The company's products (available only in green or black) are on sale in more than 100 countries.
CACTO was founded by Jesus Chavez, a climate campaigner, and was designed to have sustainability as a guiding principle at the core of its operation. The entire production cycle is closely monitored by its staff, from the sourcing of materials to production, packaging, distribution and shipping.
Through a partnership with a Swiss non-profit organisation, On a Mission, CACTO says its staff have measured and offset 150% of its CO2 emissions through sustainable reforestation worldwide.
The measurement and offsetting process will take place every six months for the next 10 years. Through several emergent partnerships, the company says it aims to offset at least 1000% of the emissions it generates by the end of 2021.
Jesus Chavez said: "If we want to succeed in reaching net zero carbon emissions well before 2050 and avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we must all work in concert in whatever capacity we are able to.
"Industries across the board need to benefit from existing technology and offsetting programs to become carbon-negative, and to invest in new research and innovation to reach that goal faster. The decisions we make this decade will determine the fate of humanity for centuries to come. It is up to us now."
He said customers around the world wanted alternatives to materials that increased pollution and to unethical manufacturing processes.
CACTO hopes to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs to make clear what has been evident to specialists for decades, that decoupling emissions from economic growth is not only feasible, but is the smartest, fastest and most responsible way to grow. Mexico's cactuses bear a heavy responsibility on their ears − or leaves − or branches.
Reposted with permission from Climate News Network.
Climate change, activities that contribute to it, and dams pose grave threats to America's rivers, according to American Rivers.
The annual report ranks the county's 10 rivers most endangered by human activity that also have a critical decision point coming in the next year that could change the river's fate.
Four dams are choking the Snake River — earning it the top spot in the report — obstructing salmon and posing an existential threat to Native American tribes in the region who depend on the fish for food, culture and their identities.
Advocates are calling on President Biden to remove the federal dams and revitalize the river and its ecosystem.
Toxic coal ash pollutes the Lower Missouri, which also is experiencing an increase in climate-driven flooding, putting it second on the list, while Iowa's Raccoon River, at number nine, faces threats from industrial agriculture.
Between them are rivers befouled by sewage, polluted or threatened by mining, and otherwise dammed or mismanaged.
"Rivers are among the most degraded ecosystems on the planet, and threats to rivers are threats to human health, safety and survival," American Rivers head Tom Kiernan said.
"If we want a future of clean water and healthy rivers everywhere, for everyone, we must prioritize environmental justice."
For a deeper dive:
Japan will release radioactive wastewater from the failed Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, the government announced on Tuesday.
The water will be treated before release, and the International Atomic Energy Agency said the country's plans were in keeping with international practice, The New York Times reported. But the plan is opposed by the local fishing community, environmental groups and neighboring countries. Within hours of the announcement, protesters had gathered outside government offices in Tokyo and Fukushima, according to NPR.
"The Japanese government has once again failed the people of Fukushima," Greenpeace Japan Climate and Energy Campaigner Kazue Suzuki said in a statement. "The government has taken the wholly unjustified decision to deliberately contaminate the Pacific Ocean with radioactive wastes."
The dilemma of how to dispose of the water is one ten years in the making. In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan killed more than 19,000 people and caused three of six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to melt down, The New York Times explained. This resulted in the biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and the cleanup efforts persist more than a decade later.
To keep the damaged reactors from melting down, cool water is flushed through them and then filtered to remove all radioactive material except for tritium. Up until now, the wastewater has been stored on site, but the government says the facility will run out of storage room next year. Water builds up at 170 tons per day, and there are now around 1.25 million tons stored in more than 1,000 tanks.
The government now plans to begin releasing the water into the ocean in two years time, according to a decision approved by cabinet ministers Tuesday. The process is expected to take decades.
"On the premise of strict compliance with regulatory standards that have been established, we select oceanic release," the government said in a statement reported by NPR.
Opposition to the move partly involves a lack of trust around what is actually in the water, as NPR reported. Both the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, say that the water only contains tritium, which cannot be separated from hydrogen and is only dangerous to humans in large amounts.
"But it turned out that the water contains more radioactive materials. But they didn't disclose that information before," Friends of the Earth Japan campaigner Ayumi Fukakusa told NPR. "That kind of attitude is not honest to people. They are making distrust by themselves."
In February, for example, a rockfish shipment was stopped when a sample caught near Fukushima tested positive for unsafe levels of cesium.
This incident also illustrates why local fishing communities oppose the release. Fish catches are already only 17.5 percent of what they were before the disaster, and the community worries the release of the water will make it impossible for them to sell what they do catch. They also feel the government went against its promises by deciding to release the water.
"They told us that they wouldn't release the water into the sea without the support of fishermen," fishery cooperative leader Kanji Tachiya told national broadcaster NHK, as CBS News reported. "We can't back this move to break that promise and release the water into the sea unilaterally."
Japan's neighbors also questioned the move. China called it "extremely irresponsible," and South Korea asked for a meeting with the Japanese ambassador in Seoul in response.
The U.S. State Department, however, said that it trusted Japan's judgement.
"In this unique and challenging situation, Japan has weighed the options and effects, has been transparent about its decision, and appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards," the department said in a statement reported by The New York Times.
But environmentalists argue that the government could have found a way to continue storing waste.
"Rather than using the best available technology to minimize radiation hazards by storing and processing the water over the long term, they have opted for the cheapest option, dumping the water into the Pacific Ocean," Greenpeace's Suzuki said.
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Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier is referred to as the doomsday glacier because every year it contributes four percent to global sea level rise and acts as a stopper for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. If the glacier were to collapse and take the sheet with it, that would raise global sea levels by around 10 feet. Now, a study published in Science Advances on April 9 warns that there is more warm water circling below the glacier than previously believed, making that collapse more likely.
"Our observations show warm water impinging from all sides on pinning points critical to ice-shelf stability, a scenario that may lead to unpinning and retreat," the study authors wrote. Pinning points are areas where the ice connects with the bedrock that provides stability, Earther explained.
The new paper is based on a 2019 expedition where an autonomous submarine named Ran explored the area beneath the glacier in order to measure the strength, salinity, oxygen content and temperature of the ocean currents that move beneath it, the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration explained in a press release.
"These were the first measurements ever performed beneath the ice front of Thwaites glacier," Anna Wåhlin, lead author and University of Gothenburg oceanography professor, explained in the press release. "Global sea level is affected by how much ice there is on land, and the biggest uncertainty in the forecasts is the future evolution of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet."
This isn't the first instance revealing the presence of warm water beneath the glacier. In January 2020, researchers drilled a bore hole through the glacier and recorded temperature readings of more than two degrees Celsius above freezing, EcoWatch reported at the time.
However, Ran's measurements were taken earlier and allow scientists to understand the warmer water's movement in more detail. Scientists now know that water as warm as 1.05 degrees Celsius is circulating around the glacier's vulnerable pinning points.
"The worry is that this water is coming into direct contact with the underside of the ice shelf at the point where the ice tongue and shallow seafloor meet," Alastair Graham, study co-author and University of Southern Florida associate professor of geological oceanography, told Earther. "This is the last stronghold for Thwaites and once it unpins from the sea bed at its very front, there is nothing else for the ice shelf to hold onto. That warm water is also likely mixing in and around the grounding line, deep into the cavity, and that means the glacier is also being attacked at its feet where it is resting on solid rock."
While this sounds grim, the fact that researchers were able to obtain the data is crucial for understanding and predicting the impacts of the climate crisis.
"The good news is that we are now, for the first time, collecting data that will enable us to model the dynamics of Thwaite's glacier. This data will help us better calculate ice melting in the future. With the help of new technology, we can improve the models and reduce the great uncertainty that now prevails around global sea level variations," Wåhlin said in the press release.
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By Jessica Corbett
Lead partners of a global consortium of news outlets that aims to improve reporting on the climate emergency released a statement on Monday urging journalists everywhere to treat their coverage of the rapidly heating planet with the same same level of urgency and intensity as they have the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since Covering Climate Now (CCNow) was co-founded in 2019 by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation in association with The Guardian and WNYC, over 460 media outlets — including Common Dreams — with a combined reach of two billion people have become partner organizations.
CCNow and eight of those partners are now inviting media outlets to sign on to the Climate Emergency Statement, which begins: "It's time for journalism to recognize that the climate emergency is here. This is a statement of science, not politics."
The statement notes that a growing number of scientists are warning of the "climate emergency," from James Hansen, formerly of NASA, to the nearly 14,000 scientists from over 150 countries who have endorsed an emergency declaration.
"Why 'emergency'? Because words matter," the CCNow statement explains. "To preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately. Failure to slash the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the extraordinary heat, storms, wildfires, and ice melt of 2020 routine and could 'render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable,' warned a recent Scientific American article."
CCNow's initiative comes after U.S. government scientists said last week that "carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years," with 2020 featuring a global surface average for CO2 of 412.5 parts per million (PPM) — which very likely would have been higher if not for the pandemic.
As Common Dreams reported last week, amid rising atmospheric carbon and inadequate emissions reduction plans, an international coalition of 70 health professional and civil society groups called on world leaders to learn from the pandemic and "make health a central focus of national climate policies."
"The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that health must be part and parcel of every government policy — and as recovery plans are drawn up this must apply to climate policy," said Jeni Miller, executive director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance.
CCNow also points to the public health crisis as a learning opportunity, describing the media's handling of it as "a useful model," considering that "guided by science, journalists have described the pandemic as an emergency, chronicled its devastating impacts, called out disinformation, and told audiences how to protect themselves (with masks, for example)."
"We need the same commitment to the climate story," the statement emphasizes.
Journalism should reflect what science says. https://t.co/MCbSRQMFch— The Nation (@The Nation)1618240621.0
CCNow executive director Mark Hertsgaard echoed that message Monday in The Nation, for which he serves as environment correspondent. He also addressed reservations that some reporters may have about supporting such a statement:
As journalists ourselves, we understand why some of our colleagues are cautious about initiatives like this Climate Emergency Statement, but we ask that they hear us out. Journalists rightly treasure our editorial independence, regarding it as essential to our credibility. To some of us, the term "climate emergency" may sound like advocacy or even activism — as if we're taking sides in a public dispute rather than simply reporting on it.
But the only side we're taking here is the side of science. As journalists, we must ground our coverage in facts. We must describe reality as accurately as we can, undeterred by how our reporting may appear to partisans of any stripe and unintimidated by efforts to deny science or otherwise spin facts.
According to Hertsgaard, "Signing the Climate Emergency Statement is a way for journalists and news outlets to alert their audiences that they will do justice to that story."
"But whether a given news outlet makes a public declaration by signing the statement," he added, "is less important than whether the outlet's coverage treats climate change like the emergency that scientists say it is."
Editor's Note: Common Dreams has signed on to the Climate Emergency Statement, which can be read in full below:
COVERING CLIMATE NOW STATEMENT ON THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY:
Journalism should reflect what the science says: the climate emergency is here.It's time for journalism to recognize that the climate emergency is here.
This is a statement of science, not politics.
Thousands of scientists — including James Hansen, the NASA scientist who put the problem on the public agenda in 1988, and David King and Hans Schellnhuber, former science advisers to the British and German governments, respectively — have said humanity faces a "climate emergency."
Why "emergency"? Because words matter. To preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately. Failure to slash the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the extraordinary heat, storms, wildfires, and ice melt of 2020 routine and could "render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable," warned a recent Scientific American article.
The media's response to Covid-19 provides a useful model. Guided by science, journalists have described the pandemic as an emergency, chronicled its devastating impacts, called out disinformation, and told audiences how to protect themselves (with masks, for example).
We need the same commitment to the climate story.
We, the undersigned, invite journalists and news organizations everywhere to add your name to this Covering Climate Now statement on the climate emergency.
- Covering Climate Now
- Scientific American
- Columbia Journalism Review
- The Nation
- The Guardian
- Noticias Telemundo
- Al Jazeera English
- Asahi Shimbun
- La Repubblica
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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