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FRACKING PUBLIC LANDS: Is the BLM Bowing to Industry Pressure on New Fracking Rules?
Last year the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a draft rule for well stimulation (including hydraulic fracturing) under federal leases. The original proposal included limited new rules for chemical disclosure, mechanical integrity and waste water handling.
After it received extensive public comment, the BLM announced it would be going back to the drawing board and developing a new draft for public comment. This new draft was recently leaked to the press. If it’s legitimate, it appears that the BLM has further weakened what was an already weak rule.
The leaked draft contains a number of troubling revisions:
- Replacement of the term “well stimulation” with “hydraulic fracturing.” Proposed rules in the previous version applied to “well stimulation” operations, which included hydraulic fracturing and other techniques like “acidizing,” where the industry injects large quantities of acid down a well. The new version only covers hydraulic fracturing.
- Why do we care? Acidizing can present some of the same risks as hydraulic fracturing and should be regulated similarly. Operators in the Monterey Shale in CA, for example, have experimented with massive acidizing jobs using an extremely hazardous acid called hydrofluoric acid.[i] This activity wouldn’t be regulated under the revised rules.
- The results of tools that are used to tell how effectively drinking water is isolated, called cement evaluation logs, don’t have to be submitted until after hydraulic fracturing is performed. Also, the results from one well can be used as a proxy for multiple wells. Under the previous version, operators would have had to submit unique results for each well before fracturing in order to get approval to frack.
- Why do we care? The whole point of cement evaluation logs is to ensure drinking water is protected before fracturing begins. If drinking water isn’t properly isolated, the well needs to be fixed before fracturing, but the BLM may not know if there’s a problem until after fracturing has happened—or they may not know at all, if the results submitted are for a different well.
- In the previous version, operators had to submit unique information for each well to get permission to frack—things like the depth at which fracturing will occur, where the water used for fracturing will come from, how much water, how far the fractures are expected to grow, etc. In the revised version, they can submit one packet of generic information and get multiple permits.
- Why do we care? Each fracturing operation is unique and regulators can’t determine if the design is safe and appropriate using generic information.
- See a blog from my colleague, Matt McFeeley, on how the BLM is gutting chemical disclosure requirements.
Furthermore, it appears that the BLM is also failing to make any additional improvements recommended by the Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of other environmental groups. These improvements are necessary to address the full range of environmental and human health risks associated with well stimulation, and include things like setbacks, baseline water testing, and well construction.
Time will tell whether these leaked rules are legitimate. Will the BLM give the industry yet another lollipop to appease their latest temper tantrum or will they fulfill their responsibility to protect our shared public lands?
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
[i] Rowe, Greg, R. Hurkmans, and Norman Jones. "Unlocking the Monterey Shale Potential at Elk Hills: A Case Study." Paper SPE 86993 presented at the SPE International Thermal Operations and Heavy oil Symposium and Western Regional Meeting, Bakersfield, California. 2004.
Click here to sign a petition to tell the Bureau of Land Management to issue strong rules for federal fracking leases on public lands.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
Bread has been a source of basic nutrition for centuries, the holy trinity being wheat, maize and rice. It has also been the reason for a lot of innovation in science and technology, from millstones to microbiological investigations into a family of single-cell fungi called Saccharomyces.
Chemical leavening<p>If you like a little heft in your loaf, you will need a leavening agent.</p><p>For those short on time, you can use baking soda. That's a chemical compound of sodium bicarbonate mixed with potassium bitartrate, or cream of tartar.</p><p>Soda breads have their traditions in parts of eastern and central Europe, and in Ireland and Scotland, with Melrose loaves and "farls."</p><p>They can taste a bit bland, though, and are often considered only as an emergency solution on Sundays. No disrespect intended: They taste just fine fresh from the oven.</p><p>Whether it's chemical or more "natural," leavening relies largely on the production of carbon dioxide.</p><p>When you mix an acid, such as vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt or apple cider, with an alkaline compound like baking soda, you get CO2. That CO2 creates bubbles, which in turn capture steam in the oven and allow a bread to rise.</p><p><span></span>But it's better with yeast. Tastes better, too. It just takes more time. </p>
What is yeast?<p>There are yeasts all around us — on grains, in the air, in biofuels. It even lives inside us, but that's not always a good thing.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1090575/pdf/1471-2334-5-22.pdf" target="_blank">Candida yeast</a> can cause infections of the skin, feet, mouth, penis or vagina if it builds up too much in the body.</p><p>One of the most common yeasts, however, is <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em>. That's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/an-early-beer-archaeologists-tap-ground-at-worlds-oldest-brewery/a-45480731" target="_blank">"brewer's"</a> or "baker's" yeast.</p><p>You can get fresh baker's yeast, often in 42-gram (1.48-ounce) cubes, or as dried yeast (quick action or active, which requires rehydration) in a sachet of 7 grams.</p><p>There's little difference: One is compressed and the other is dehydrated and granulated. But they do the same thing, essentially. </p><p>Some commercial yeast producers add molasses and other nutrients. But natural yeast has plenty of useful nutrients in it anyway, including B group vitamins, so who knows whether it's good or necessary to add them. </p>
How does yeast work?<p>When you mix flour, yeast and water, you set off a veritable chain reaction. Enzymes in the wheat convert starch into sugar. And the yeast creates enzymes of its own to convert those sugars into a form it can absorb.</p><p>The yeast "feeds" on the sugars to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. The yeast burps and farts, releasing gases into the mix, and that creates bubbles to trap CO2. </p><p>It's a vital fermentation process that breaks down the gluten in the flour and helps make your bread more digestible.</p><p>The yeast cells split and reproduce, generating lactic and carbonic acid, raising the temperature and ultimately adding flavor to the mix.</p><p>The longer you leave the yeast to do its thing, the better for your bread. Time is more important than the amount of yeast. </p><p>In fact, that's an enduring question — how much yeast? I'll use 20 grams fresh yeast for 500 grams of flour. Others say that's enough yeast for 1 kilo. If you are converting a dry-yeast recipe to fresh yeast, some bakers advise tripling the weight. So, if a sachet of dried yeast is 7 grams, your fresh yeast is 21 grams.</p><p><span></span>But that also depends on the flours you are using, temperatures in the bowl and the room, and a host of other things. You'll just have to experiment and see. No number of books (and I've read a stack on bread) will help as much as trial and error.</p>
Wild yeast: Sourdough<p>So, good bread needs time. If you have a lot of time, why not move it up a notch and grow wild yeast — a sourdough starter — in your own home?</p><p>A sourdough starter is not to be mistaken (as it often is) for the leaven, or "mother," "sponge," or <em>levain</em>. That's more a second stage, a descendant of the starter. You take a scoop from your starter and add it to another flour and water mixture when you prepare the dough for a new loaf. </p><p>The sourdough process utilizes yeasts naturally present in flour and … yet more time. A longer fermentation process allows a richer lactic acid bacteria <em>lactobacilli</em> or LAB to evolve, and that can be healthy for your gut microbiome.</p><p>It's simple enough to start a sourdough starter. All you need is flour, warm water and time.</p><p>Some suggest equal measures of whole-grain flour and water at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), some say room temperature — just don't let the water exceed 40 C or the yeasts will die. Some suggest two parts flour to three parts water. But it's up to you whether you want a drier or wetter starter. You will know only through experimentation. </p><p>Some say you should filter tap water to remove chemicals like fluoride and avoid using water that's boiled and then cooled. Others say that really doesn't matter.</p><p>The main thing is, keep it clean and give it time. Days, weeks, months and years.</p>
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