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Natascha Engel resigned from her role as the shale gas commissioner over the government's commitment to seismic activity regulations. BBC News / Frack Free TV / YouTube screenshot

By Russell Scott and Zach Boren

The British government's recently-departed shale gas commissioner admitted to routinely deleting correspondence and throwing away notes from meetings with fracking companies in a move that may have violated transparency requirements.

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Drilling next to homes in North Dakota's Bakken Shale. Tara Lohan

By Tara Lohan

In 2010 when I first started writing about hydraulic fracturing — the process of blasting a cocktail of water and chemicals into shale to release trapped hydrocarbons — there were more questions than answers about environmental and public-health threats. That same year Josh Fox's documentary Gasland, which featured tap water bursting into flames, grabbed the public's attention. Suddenly the term fracking — little known outside the oil and gas industry — became common parlance.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Greenpeace fracking protest in London's Parliament Square. DAVID HOLT / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A string of small earthquakes were reported the town of Blackpool just days after fracking operations restarted in England after a seven year hiatus, raising concerns that the controversial drilling process could eventually trigger bigger temblors.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) detected five quakes since Thursday near the contentious Preston New Road site operated by UK shale gas firm Cuadrilla Resources.

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A protester outside the site where fracking restarted in the UK in October. OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty Images

It would appear that the resurgence of fracking in the UK is on very shaky ground. A company called Cuadrilla restarted the controversial technique at a site in Lancashire, in Northwest England, just two months ago after a seven year hiatus. But it spent a month of that time doing tests with smaller volumes of water after a series of small earthquakes in October, The Guardian reported.

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Police officers stand near anti-fracking protesters attempting to stop a tanker lorry leaving the Preston New Road drill site where energy firm Cuadrilla Resources have recommenced fracking operations to extract shale gas, on Oct. 25. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

The return of fracking to the UK is off to a truly shaky start.

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A cow stands near the fracking site where tremors prompted Cuadrilla to put work on hold. Stewart Kirby / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

A little over a week after fracking restarted in the UK, it's been paused again due to seismic activity, The Guardian Reported.

Cuadrilla Resources, the company fracking two wells at the Preston New Road site in Lancashire in northwest England, confirmed Tuesday they had paused operations for the day after a tremor registered a magnitude of 0.4. Tuesday's tremor was only the largest of six that have been detected near the site since Cuadrilla began fracking again, The British Geological Survey said.

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Thousands of young people gather in London to protest lack of government action on climate change on February 15, 2018.WIktor Szymanowicz / NurPhoto / Getty Images

England's High Court ruled Wednesday that the government's planning policy on fracking was unlawful, in a major victory for anti-fracking group Talk Fracking.

In part of his ruling, Mr. Justice Dove found that the government had not taken up-to-date information on climate change into account when drafting its policy. This could make it easier for campaigners to challenge new fracking sites in the future on the basis of their climate impacts, The Guardian explained.

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A water impoundment at a drill pad in the Fayetteville Shale gas play of Arkansas. Bill Cunningham / USGS

By Emily Brodsky

Earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S. have increased dramatically in the last decade as a result of human activities. Enhanced oil recovery techniques, including dewatering and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have made accessible large quantities of oil and gas previously trapped underground, but often result in a glut of contaminated wastewater as a byproduct.

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A Hyundai damaged from an earthquake in Pohang, South Korea on Nov. 15, 2017. Sim1992 / CC BY-SA 4.0

One of South Korea's largest earthquakes was likely triggered by hydraulic fracturing associated with geothermal energy production, according to two studies published Thursday in the journal Science.

The 5.5-magnitude temblor that struck the city of Pohang on Nov. 15, 2017 was the second most powerful on record and its most damaging, leaving the infrastructure in ruins, injuring dozens of people and leaving about 1,500 homeless.

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A pronghorn runs through the Pinedale Anticline natural gas field in Wyoming in 2008. Theo Stein / USFWS

By Tara Lohan

In January 2015 North Dakota experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in its history: A pipeline burst, spilling nearly 3 million gallons of briny, saltwater waste from nearby oil-drilling operations into two creek beds. The wastewater, which flowed all the way to the Missouri River, contained chloride concentrations high enough to kill any wildlife that encountered it.

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Anti-fracking protesters Rich Loizou (L) Richard Roberts and Simon Roscoe-Blevins (R) stand outside Preston Crown Court where they are set to be sentenced for public nuisance on Sept. 25 in Preston, England. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Environmental activists were sentenced to prison Wednesday for their anti-fracking demonstrations in northwest England.

Roscoe Blevins, 26, and Richard Roberts, 36, were given 16 months in prison. Richard Loizou, 31, was given 15 months. The three were found guilty of public nuisance offense by a jury in August, The Guardian reported. A fourth protester, Julian Brock, 47, received a 12-month suspended custodial sentence. He pleaded guilty for the same offense at a separate hearing.

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Up to a hundred women from the Lancashire anti-fracking movement dressed as suffragettes congregate in Parliament Square and pay the Dep For Energy, Business and Industrial Strategy a visit, London, Unted Kingdom, Sept. 12. Kristian Buus /In Pictures / Getty Images

Shale-gas company Cuadrilla announced Wednesday it would begin fracking in northwest England within weeks following government approval of a second well at its New Presto Road site, Reuters reported.

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USGS recorded two 4.2-magnitude earthquakes near Enid, Oklahoma on March 4.

Two 4.2-magnitude earthquakes struck near Enid in northern Oklahoma Sunday at 5:17 p.m and 9:40 p.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). They are the largest recorded this year so far and even felt in neighboring Kansas.

The large quakes were followed by two smaller ones around the same area early Monday. The first was a magnitude 2.7 followed by 12:35 a.m. then magnitude 2.6 at 6:16 a.m.

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House damage in central Oklahoma from the magnitude 5.6 earthquake on Nov. 6, 2011. Wikimedia Commons

The alarming string of earthquakes that have shaken Oklahoma for years has long been tied to the large volume of fracking wastewater dumped into the state's injection wells. And while state regulators have taken numerous measures to reduce wastewater disposal volumes to prevent such "induced" earthquakes, they might want to consider another measure—restricting how deep wastewater gets sent underground.

A new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, finds that Oklahoma's earthquakes can also be triggered by wastewater injection depth.

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A fracking operation. Lock the Gate Alliance / Flickr

By Kari Lydersen

Four years ago, the Illinois legislature passed a law to regulate high volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, after months of contentious negotiations between oil industry interests, environmental watchdogs and community groups.

Leading up to the law's passage, companies had secured hundreds of leases to potentially frack in Southern Illinois.

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Arches National Park. Chris Dodds / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

On Tuesday the Trump administration offered more than 150,000 acres of public lands for fossil-fuel extraction near some of Utah's most iconic landscapes, including Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

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More than 300,000 acres are on the auction block in Nevada's Great Basin in 2017, including wild lands near the Ruby Mountains. PR vonB / Flickr

President Trump and Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke are continuing their onslaught against American public lands this holiday month and moving forward with plans to auction off 700,000 acres for fracking, endangering clean air and water, the climate and sacred lands.

"First it's our cherished national monuments, now Trump and Zinke are set to give away even more public lands to the fossil fuel industry," said Becca Fischer, climate guardian for WildEarth Guardians. "Rather than giving back this holiday season, this administration is proving that it will stop at nothing to put our public lands in the hands of dirty energy executives and sell off our rights to clean energy and a healthy environment."

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Photo credit: Mark Schmerling / FracTracker Alliance

Earthquakes in Pennsylvania are usually rare but fracking operations triggered a series of small temblors in Lawrence County last year, officials at the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced in a Feb. 17 report.

Hilcorp Energy Co., a Texas-based oil and gas company, was fracking a pair of wells in the Utica Shale when seismic monitors detected five earthquakes measuring between 1.8 and 2.3 on the Richter scale between April 25-26, 2016.

"Our analysis after doing the review... is that these events are correlated with the activity of the operator," DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell told Penn Live.

While the tremors were too small to be felt by humans or cause any damage, they are the first quakes in the state to be blamed on fracking. Pennsylvania happens to be the second largest natural gas-producing state in the country.

"At least within Pennsylvania, this is the first time that we have seen that sort of spatial and temporal correlation with [oil and gas] operator activity," Seth Pelepko, chief of well-plugging and subsurface activities for DEP's oil and gas management program, told Allegheny Front, a western Pennsylvania public radio program.

"No faults identified along portions of the well bore where these seismic events were detected," Pelepko continued.

Hilcorp spokesman Justin Furnace said operations were immediately suspended after learning about the tremors. Fracking and stimulation operations have since been discontinued at the well pad indefinitely.

The DEP said that Hilcorp was using a technique known as "zipper fracturing" at the time, which involves the concurrent fracking of two horizontal wellbores that are parallel and adjacent to each other.

So how did the earthquakes happen? As Penn Live explains:

Four wells were drilled to depth of about 7,900 feet in that location.

Evidence indicates that induced earthquakes occur when the separation between Utica Shale and basement rocks is lessened during drilling operations. That means, when someone drills too close to basement rocks, there can be earthquakes.

Pelepko said that seems to have been the case in Lawrence County, where the basement rock is shallow compared to other areas in the state.

The distance between Utica Shale and basement rocks were between 2,500 to 3,000 feet at the fracking site.

The DEP has since given a number of recommendations to Hilcorp, including the discontinuation of zipper fracturing near gas wells in North Beaver, Union and Mahoning Townships where the earthquakes occurred. Additionally, the company must shut down operations and notify the DEP should any earthquake larger than 2.0 or three successive quakes between 1.5 and 1.9 in magnitude occur within a three-mile distance of a wellbore path.

Earthquakes caused by fracking a well are uncommon. However, the notorious spate of earthquakes in Oklahoma, which were caused by the disposal of large quantities of fracking wastewater into underground wells, are rampant. The disposal of wastewater produced from fracking, has led to the alarming increase of earthquakes with magnitude-3 or larger by nearly 300 times, or 30,000 percent in north-central Oklahoma alone. In 2014, more than 5,000 earthquakes were reported.

But a 4.8-magnitude frack-quake that struck Alberta, Canada in Jan. 2016 set a world record for the largest earthquake triggered by the controversial drilling process.

Victoria Pickering / Flickr

By Elliott Negin

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt recently proposed eliminating federal tax credits for wind and solar power, arguing that they should "stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas and other sources" as opposed to "being propped up by tax incentives and other types of credits...."

Stand on their own?

Pruitt surely must be aware that fossil fuels have been feasting at the government trough for at least 100 years. Renewables, by comparison, have received support only since the mid-1990s and, until recently, have had to subsist on scraps.

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