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Investigation Continues Into Fatal Explosion at WV Fracking Site
By Laura Beans
In the early morning hours of July 7, an explosion at a natural gas drill site in Doddridge County, WV, launched federal and state investigations into what ignited the fire and caused the subsequent explosion.
Seven people were injured, and since two men have died due to injuries sustained during the explosion, according to the Associated Press. Jason Mearns, 37, of Beverly, WV, died Sunday at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh. Tommy Paxton, 45, of Walton, WV, died at West Penn Hospital on July 24.
The company that operates the drill site, Antero Resources, claims in its report issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), that the cause of the blast was a buildup of gas in tanks used to store flow back water from the process of preparing the well for natural gas production.
The flow back process occurs during high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing—fracking—in which millions of gallons of water and chemicals are pumped deep underground to release natural gas from shale rock.
According to the West Virginia Gazette, Antero said the accident was due to "the presence of an accumulation of gas from storage tanks on location" and "weather conditions exacerbating the accumulation potential of said gas." The company also blamed "a concentration of heavier than methane hydrocarbons in the gas mixture" and "an apparent ignition source near" a C&R Drilling skid pump. Previously, Antero had blamed the explosion on a crew that was inserting a production tube into the metal casing around the drilled hole.
Despite Antero Resources vowing to more closely review the layout of equipment on drilling sites, consider taller storage tanks for flow back water and latch those tanks to ensure explosive gases are contained, the DEP is calling for a more complete review of the investigation.
James Martin, chief of the DEP's Office of Oil and Gas, issued a follow-up order that demands Antero provide "all information" used by the company in the initial report on the explosion, citing insufficient information.
Antero claims no pollutants were released or associated with the incident, writes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but in its newest order, the DEP asked "for a rationale expressing how it was deemed that no pollutants were released in the incident."
"They don't have a lot of information backing up what they say in this report," said Kathy Cosco, a spokeswoman for the DEP 's Office of Oil and Gas. "This is a report that could have been submitted to us long before the deadline."
Antero Resources has had a host of infractions prior to the July 7 explosion. In the Gazette-Mail, David Gutman explained that the DEP had cited Antero for 17 violations of state code in the past three years. The violations have been primarily environmental, including failures to prevent waste runoff and to report discharges, and for contaminating waterways.
One violation, dated January 4, warned, "Imminent danger water supplys [sic] threatened by allowing pollutants to escape and flow into the waters of the state."
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING pages for more related news on this topic.
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If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.
"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
- Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change ›
- How working less could solve all our problems. Really. | ›
- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›