The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is pushing ahead with the sale of oil and gas leases on land outside of Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other sites revered by Native American tribes, The Associated Press reported.
The latest listing—which quietly appeared on the BLM website not long after the government reopened after the shutdown—comes about a year after then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke postponed a lease sale in the Greater Chaco Region in response to intense public pressure over cultural and environmental concerns.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tara Lohan
In the last few weeks of 2018, the Trump administration set the stage for a big battle over water in the new year. At stake is an important rule that defines which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. The Trump administration seeks to roll back important protections for wetlands and waterways, which are important to drinking water and wildlife.
By Jeff Deyette
Despite the Trump administration's ongoing attempts to prop up coal and undermine renewables—at FERC, EPA and through tariffs and the budget process—2018 should instead be remembered for the surge in momentum toward a clean energy economy. Here are nine storylines that caught my attention this past year and help illustrate the unstoppable advancement of renewable energy and other modern grid technologies.
By Justin Mikulka
2018 was the year the oil and gas industry promised that its darling, the shale fracking revolution, would stop focusing on endless production and instead turn a profit for its investors. But as the year winds to a close, it's clear that hasn't happened.
Instead, the fracking industry has helped set new records for U.S. oil production while continuing to lose huge amounts of money—and that was before the recent crash in oil prices.
Video: Freedom to Breathe Tour Bus Visits Communities Across the Country Working on Climate Solutions
By Owen Agnew
Wildfires, sea level rise, air pollution, asthma—you don't have to go far to find communities living with climate change impacts. But there are also climate solutions everywhere you look. This summer, the Freedom to Breathe Tour visited communities across the country that are working to reduce carbon emissions and make their communities healthier and more resilient.
By Eleanor Bravo
Imagine: a deep, pristine aquifer persists without incident for more than 11,700 years in the Valley of San Augustin. It is revered and left unmarred by the community members who know of its existence, utilizing it respectfully and sustainably, leaving it intact—from the Ice Age until 2008. That is when a New York-based company, Augustin Plains Ranch LLC, owned by an Italian billionaire, decided to set up its operation and apply for a permit to invade the aquifer by extracting 54,000 acre feet of water per year.
By William J. Kinsella
Seventy-five years ago, in March 1943, a mysterious construction project began at a remote location in eastern Washington state. Over the next two years some 50,000 workers built an industrial site occupying half the area of Rhode Island, costing more than $230 million—equivalent to $3.1 billion today. Few of those workers, and virtually no one in the surrounding community, knew the facility's purpose.
By John R. Platt
The number of oil and gas rigs in the U.S. has increased an astonishing 38 percent over the past year. That's according to S&P Global Platts Analytics, which reported this week that the country had 1,070 rigs at the end of January, up from just 773 a year earlier.
Experts expressed fear that all of this new development does not bode well for the planet. "This will have a very significant climate impact," said Romany Webb, climate law fellow with the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. "The oil and gas industry is a huge source of methane, which is a really potent greenhouse gas. And then on top of that you also have the carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of this oil and gas. So this is very concerning from a climate perspective."
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt announced Monday that the Trump administration is rolling back the Clean Power Plan to end the previous administration's "war on coal" but there's a big problem: Obama didn't kill the coal industry—the market for cheap natural gas and increasingly affordable renewable energy did.
Case in point, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that New Mexico's largest utility still plans to phase out coal as a power source in 2031. The Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) currently uses coal for 56 percent of its energy generation but wants drop use to 12 percent by 2025.
On Wednesday, Santa Fe's City Council unanimously adopted Mayor Javier Gonzales' resolution directing City Manager Brian Snyde to develop a feasibility study on how the city can transition to renewables by 2025. Snyde will report the findings in 90 days.
By Andy Rowell
Amidst the continued dire warnings about climate change, censored scientists and stranded assets, the oil industry keeps on doing what it does best: keeps on belligerently looking for more oil and gas.
Earlier this week, BP announced it had discovered what it is labelling a "significant new source of U.S. natural gas supply" in New Mexico in the Mancos Shale, just across from the Colorado border.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has long been tied to environmental risks such as spills. The frequency of spills, however, has long been murky since states do not release standardized data.
Estimates from the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) vary wildly.
"The number of spills nationally could range from approximately 100 to 3,700 spills annually, assuming 25,000 to 30,000 new wells are fractured per year," the agency said in a June 2015 report. Also, the EPA reported only 457 spills related to fracking in 11 states between 2006 and 2012.
But now, a new study suggests that fracking-related spills occur at a much higher rate.
The analysis, published Feb. 21 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, revealed 6,648 spills in four states alone—Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania—in 10 years.
The researchers determined that up to 16 percent of fracked oil and gas wells spill hydrocarbons, chemically laden water, fracking fluids and other substances.
EPA Watered Down Major #Fracking Study to Downplay Water Contamination Risks https://t.co/9HhJdrSZ1R @GreenpeaceUK @globalactplan— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1480767012.0
For the study, the researchers examined state-level spill data to characterize spills associated with unconventional oil and gas development at 31,481 fracked wells in the four states between 2005 and 2014.
"On average, that's equivalent to 55 spills per 1,000 wells in any given year," lead author Lauren Patterson, a policy associate at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, told ResearchGate.
North Dakota reported the highest spill rate, with 4,453 incidents. Pennsylvania reported 1,293, Colorado reported 476 and New Mexico reported 426. The researchers created an interactive map of spill sites in the four states.
Although North Dakota is rich in oil, the state's higher spill rate can be explained by varying state reporting requirements. North Dakota is required to report any spill larger than 42 gallons whereas requirement in Colorado and New Mexico is 210 gallons.
Patterson points out that the different reporting requirements are a problem.
"Our study concludes that making state spill data more uniform and accessible could provide stakeholders with important information on where to target efforts for locating and preventing future spills," she told ResearchGate. "States would benefit from setting reporting requirements that generate actionable information—that is, information regulators and industry can use to identify and respond to risk 'hot spots.' It would also be beneficial to standardize how spills are reported. This would improve accuracy and make the data usable to understand spill risks."
9,442 Citizen-Reported Fracking Complaints Reveal 12-Years of Suppressed Data https://t.co/I8IpPRk6zR @talkfracking @AntiFrackinguk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1485858909.0
The reason why the researchers' numbers vastly exceeded the 457 spills estimated by the EPA is because the agency only accounted for spills during the hydraulic fracturing stage itself, rather than the entire process of unconventional oil and gas production.
"Understanding spills at all stages of well development is important because preparing for hydraulic fracturing requires the transport of more materials to and from well sites and storage of these materials on site," Patterson explained. "Investigating all stages helps to shed further light on the spills that can occur at all types of wells—not just unconventional ones."
For instance, the researchers found that 50 percent of spills were related to storage and moving fluids via pipelines.
"The causes are quite varied," Patterson told BBC. "Equipment failure was the greatest factor, the loading and unloading of trucks with material had a lot more human error than other places."
220 'Significant' Pipeline Spills Already This Year Exposes Troubling Safety Record https://t.co/pxhlC3pf06 @PriceofOil @350 @billmckibben— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1477418713.0
For the four states studied, most spills occurred in the the first three years of a well's life, when drilling and hydraulic fracturing occurred and production volumes were highest.
Additionally, a significant portion of spills (26 percent in Colorado, 53 percent in North Dakota) occurred at wells with more than one spill, suggesting that wells where spills have already occurred merit closer attention.
"Analyses like this one are so important, to define and mitigate risk to water supplies and human health," said Kate Konschnik, director of the Harvard Law School's Environmental Policy Initiative in a statement. "Writing state reporting rules with these factors in mind is critical, to ensure that the right data are available—and in an accessible format—for industry, states and the research community."
Shrouded in secrecy in mid-November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured alive and removed another Mexican gray wolf from the wild in response to the killing of cattle on national forest and state lands in east-central Arizona. The removal of the male wolf accelerates the extinction threat of the unique southwestern subspecies that has already seen at least 11 deaths and one other removal this year and declined 13 percent last year, leaving only 97 animals in Arizona and New Mexico. The captured wolf had a mate who is still in the wild.
Captive Mexican Wolf at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico.Wikipedia
"The Mexican gray wolf simply can't afford more animals being removed from the wild or even killed because of the occasional cattle loss," Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, said. "The research shows that non-lethal efforts to protect livestock are far more effective than removing or killing wolves. Yet, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has steadfastly refused to require ranchers to do anything to protect their livestock prior to removing or killing wolves."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has long flouted the recommendations of scientists in the management of the Mexican gray wolf. For example, in 2008 the Association of Zoos and Aquariums requested a moratorium on permanent removals of Mexican wolves "until an expert taskforce on genetic issues can be convened to provide guidance to these actions."
The service has yet to convene such a taskforce and had no knowledge of the latest captured wolf's genetic composition before removing him because he was born in the wild and had never previously been captured. The service rarely re-releases wolves once they've been taken into captivity.
Similarly in 2007 the American Society of Mammalogists, the leading association of scientists who study mammals, opposed removing Mexican wolves "at least until the interim 100-wolf goal of the current reintroduction program has been achieved" and urged the service to "protect wolves from the consequences of scavenging on livestock carcasses"—a frequent precursor to depredations.
The latest removal of a wolf follows removals of other wolves in past years on behalf of the same livestock owner. It is not known whether carcasses of non-wolf-killed stock contributed to the recent depredations. But documents received by the center under the Freedom of Information Act show that the last Mexican wolf removed by the government—a male from the Luna Pack trapped in May in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico—was drawn to vulnerable cattle through scavenging on carcasses of cows that had died due to birthing complications.
"The Fish and Wildlife Service maintains that it can recover wolves through traps and bullets—some of the same tools that the same agency used decades ago in exterminating them," Robinson said. "But appeasing the public-lands livestock industry in this manner has led to repeated population downturns and consistent failure to meet the service's own metrics for progress.
"Every trapped wolf is not just an individual animal suffering, along with a mate wandering the wild forlorn, but represents another step toward extinction."