Fracking Goes South: Oil and Gas Industry (and NFL Owner) Lick Their Chops Over Chattanooga Shale
By David Whiteside
Hydraulic fracturing is expanding in the South. The gas drilling companies are licking their chops over an area known as the Chattanooga Shale which spans across Alabama, Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Kentucky. As of February 2013, there are fracking wells in Anderson, Campbell, Fentress, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Scott and Union counties in Tennessee.
According to industry websites, at least six gas drilling companies are looking at mineral rights and property leases in the Volunteer State. Atlas Energy has bought up 105,000 acres in eastern Tennessee. The company believes that this property could contain up to 500 potential horizontal drilling locations. The message is clear: “the Dirty South” is open for business to the gas industry.
In addition, the University of Tennessee (UT) has plans to start a controversial fracking project and is seeking a $500,000 contract from oil and gas companies. This UT proposal intends to move forward the school’s plans to enter research on hydraulic fracturing, and drill at least one well in the first year of the project. The school is trying to lease a portion of more than 8,000 acres of land it owns in Scott and Morgan counties. The University claims it will use the revenues from the lease to fund its planned scientific research on the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. UT, like the oil and gas companies, has attempted to avoid certain regulations. For example, UT has requested a waiver of appraisals that assess the value of land and its mineral commodities, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The extraction of shale gas and coalbed methane involves a process known as hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing forces a pressurized fluid mixture including water, acid, surfactant, gel, chemicals and silica sand into the Earth around coal seams. The fluids create underground fissures in targeted coal seams and surrounding rock and shale, and phenolic resin-coated sand holds the fissures open, allowing natural gas to flow toward the surface. Advances in fracking and horizontal drilling, as well as higher natural gas prices, increased the amount of shale-gas wells and made them more profitable. Gas companies can drill vertical or horizontal wells. The first use of hydraulic fracturing was in 1947, but horizontal wells did not appear until 1998, where they were first drilled in the Barnett Shale in Texas. The success of these horizontal wells, opened up the door for more aggressive fracking throughout the country.
Groundwater contamination is a major concern for people living in rural areas near hydraulic fracturing operations. Natural gas is known as a clean burning fuel. However, when considering the full cycle costs of this form of energy—from drilling to waste disposal to consumption and back door politics—it is not so clean after all.
A representative from Atlas Energy stated that the Chattanooga Shale is too fragile for high-pressure water fracking treatment, so nitrogen gas will replace some of the water. Currently, Tennessee’s regulations do not require drillers to monitor the water quality of nearby wells or notify neighbors, unless they pump in more than 200,000 gallons of water. Tennessee regulators have acknowledged that the majority of fracking wells in the state take only about 175,000 gallons of water. Therefore, the drilling companies can avoid testing wells or notifying local citizens during the drilling process.
The Governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, is an oilman and stands to profit from petroleum and gas. The Haslam family of Knoxville, Tennessee has amassed a fortune from the business, Pilot Travel Centers, which the family founded in 1958. The family merged the business with Flying J in 2001 and the Haslam family continues to run the company out of Knoxville.
In 2012, the Haslam family purchased Western Petroleum and Maxum Petroleum. Both companies are among the nation’s major suppliers of fuel to the gas drilling and fracking operations in the U.S. The Haslam family will also start installing natural gas fueling pump stations to some of the corporation’s fueling stations. In 2013, they plan to have 100 truck stops capable of fueling 18-wheelers with liquefied natural gas.
Pilot Flying J truck stop CEO Jimmy Haslam, brother to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, discusses his profit potential from fracking in this video:
Pilot Flying J President and CEO Jimmy Haslam discusses his corporate interests
in fracking. Jimmy is the brother of Tennessee Governor, Bill Haslam. Jimmy Haslam
owns the Cleveland Browns.
The stage is set for more fracking in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky. Unfortunately, like so many other states, fracking regulations are lenient and full of loopholes in the South. Oversight from citizens and the government is extremely difficult, as the oil and gas companies shroud their fracking chemicals and extracting process from local landowners and communities. For now, the best citizens can do is to stay informed on the issue and participate in the process by supporting local environmental nonprofits. People need to get more involved in the political process by electing local, state and federal politicians who will work to strengthen oil and gas regulations, and not profit from these non-renewable energy companies at the public’s expense.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
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