Idaho activists are concerned that Alta Mesa Services (AMS) of Houston, TX, could hydraulically fracture rocks almost a mile underground to obtain natural gas and oil. AMS submitted an application to the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) on April 30, for a permit to directionally drill a natural gas well under Highway 52 in Payette County, ID, using a lease to the mineral rights under Smoke Ranch.
Unlike the 11 wells sunk by Bridge Resources in 2010 and 2011 in the shallower, “tight” gas sandstone formation of the Hamilton field under Payette River bottomlands (at about 1,400 to 1,750 feet), this well represents the first incursion into the Willow gas field. This deeper of two potential plays in southwestern Idaho lies beneath the hills and buttes surrounding the agricultural communities of New Plymouth and Fruitland, below the Hamilton sandstone and underlying shale, at depths between 4,500 and 5,800 feet in sands over basalt.
As a dangerous method of oil and gas well stimulation, fracking forces millions of gallons of pressurized freshwater and toxic substances down wells to crack subsurface rocks and release small, substandard pockets of oil and natural gas. In dozens of states across the country, this process has produced hazardous, radioactive wastewater, contaminated air and water, generated cancer-causing pollution, compromised human and environmental health and safety, and released greenhouses gases causing climate change. Earthquakes triggered by fracking’s explosive charges and wastewater well injections could exacerbate Idaho’s fifth greatest amount of seismic activity in the nation and consequently shatter the mechanical integrity of such inherently toxic oil and gas wells.
The proposed Smoke Ranch well would frack Birding Island, within the extensive wetlands and floodplain confluence of the Payette River and Big Willow Creek, only a few miles upriver from the where the City of Fruitland's drinking water intake and the Payette/Snake River converge. The surrounding landscape is full of farms, ranches, livestock and wildlife dependent on clean surface streams and irrigation canals, and aquifers only 660 feet deep perch, without much distance or barriers, over gas-bearing zones in porous layers punctured by drilling activities.
Within one-half mile of this gas well, braided river islands to the southeast and bluffs to the north comprise the two largest sites of the 1,200-acre Payette River Wildlife Management Area (WMA), overseen by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game since 1960. The Payette River WMA maintains a rich Idaho natural heritage supporting year-round residents and migratory populations of raptors, waterfowl, song, water, shore and upland birds and other wildlife. The unique, diverse habitats of the islands and nearby mainland provide prime refuges for waterfowl nesting and brooding and for upland game bird nesting and wintering. Free, popular access to a network of walking trails and canoe reaches through riparian woods, lakes, ponds and marshes benefits the public with bird watching and other recreational opportunities.
Birding Island also hosts the former dwelling and lands of the Lenni-Lenape people, migrating descendants of the Delaware tribe. Between the later-established WMA on the east and the Payette River on the west, the home site next to the water was reached by a road from the north. Leander Creech and Pearl Stephenson Creech inhabited a three-room, log-frame “Big House” with pot-belly and cook stoves and a tar-paper roof, while several dozen tribal members stayed in tents and tee pees around their home. Living close to the land and animals, the extended families nurtured and protected the birds that resided in the riverine area. Gathering and hatching wild eggs or sometimes clipping birds’ wings, they raised birds in an enclosed, screened coup before freeing them on the island. Canada geese, great blue herons, snowy egrets, mallards, and other significant ancestors of WMA birds often returned to their island home of birth. The Delawares left the place that they called “Birdies Island” in 1945, after someone stole jewelry hidden in the walls and burned the house to the ground.
At an Aug. 3, 2012, auction, for the minimum average amount of $2.35 per acre, the IDL leased 1,900 acres of state mineral and surface rights in Payette and Gem counties to the high and only bidder, Snake River Oil and Gas (SROG), for about $4,450. The transferable, ten-year (or indefinite if productive) leases for oil and gas exploration and development cover 44 tracts of public trust lands, ranging from one-third acre to 153 acres, along and beneath the navigable river and lake beds of the Payette River. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game manages 395 acres of these public lands and received about $1,000 of the lease proceeds. Along with other industry-written state laws, rules and regulations, SROG railroaded House Bill 464 through the 2012 Idaho legislative session, essentially undermining local ordinances and control of oil and gas facilities and siting. SROG has since performed seismic tests to gather data and map areas surrounding the river, information that is not available to the public. Lease preconditions disallow drilling on—but not under—the river. Proceeds from the leases and the state’s 12 percent royalty fee on oil and natural gas production revenues could benefit Idaho’s general fund, which will probably be ultimately ravaged by the environmental aftermath of mine-and-run gas companies.
Now that oil and natural gas industry representatives have steamrolled every facet of state and county government, southwestern Idaho’s vital agricultural lands and recreational waters and forests could soon be poisoned by fracking around our rivers. Many of our lawmakers have too readily accepted industry assurances of safety and profitability as well as corresponding campaign contributions. They have neglected to demand studies to ascertain possible drilling impacts to surface, ground and irrigation waters, harm of human and wildlife health, damages to property values and public infrastructure, and costs to agricultural, recreation and tourism sectors. Who will pay for subsequent remediation of these myriad losses? Idaho citizens will, unless we resist this risky, industrial development of state lands, waters and adjacent parcels.
Alta Mesa Services may have already started site preparation of the Smoke Ranch well, although comments about this drilling application for the first potentially fracked well in Idaho are due to the IDF by May 30. Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and our allies ask everyone to comment against permitting this poorly-placed well, while we further investigate these circumstances. WIRT will be distributing regional and national media releases opposing the permit, and coordinate protests at IDL offices throughout the state during the Stop the Frack Attack Week of Action, June 3 to 9. We are planning 3 p.m. demonstrations on Tuesday, June 4, at the IDL office at 3284 West Industrial Loop in Coeur d’Alene, and on Friday, June 7, at the IDL office at 300 North Sixth St. in Boise. WIRT is also instigating similar public participation at IDL units in Deary, Idaho Falls, Kamiah, McCall, Orofino, Priest Lake, St. Maries and Sandpoint.
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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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.