"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Natural Gas’

USGS Study: Drop In U.S. Underground Water Levels Has Accelerated; 3 Times Greater Than At Any Time In 20th Century

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm

U.S. Drought Monitor map from March 19, 2013Oldspeak: “Tell your crew use the H2 in wise amounts since/it’s the New World Water; and every drop counts/You can laugh and take it as a joke if you wanna/But it don’t rain for four weeks some summers/And it’s about to get real wild in the half/You be buying Evian just to take a fuckin bath -Yasiin Bey, “New World Water”
“With the U.S. currently embroiled in historic drought with no end in sight and nearly 80 percent of farmland experiencing drought, this is definitely not good. No surprise, petrochemical/”natural” gas extraction and petrochemical based factory farming are the largest users of water from aquifers. Coincidentally, the process of  extracting of petrochemicals that serve as fertilizer and energy to produce food, has the wonderful side effect of poisoning these same rapidly depleting aquifers with hundreds of secret proprietary “fracking” chemicals that sicken and or kill all life that comes into prolonged contact with them. The burning of these petrochemicals, pollutes the air, and continuously pumps dangerous amounts of  greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which has the nifty side effect of warming the planet to prehistoric levels, causing “less rain and snow filtering underground to replenish what was being pumped out“. Mix it all together and you have a completely avoidable, undeniably man-made slow motion shitshow of a global ecological catastrophe. Human activity is significantly disrupting the water cycle. We are using/poisoning more water than can be replenished naturally. We need to abandon energy and food production that is destroying our water supply.  There’s only so much left. We can’t continue to use water as if it’s supply is infinite. Over 1 Billion have no access to clean drinking water. Count on that number to rise. With that rise will come a rise in disease, as around 80% of all disease in the world stems from unclean water, poor sanitation, or crude living conditions (hygiene). We must put the safety our most vital and indispensable resource ahead of profit.  Water is the Eco-currency we can’t afford to run out of.”

By Deborah Zabarenko @ Reuters:

Water levels in U.S. aquifers, the vast underground storage areas tapped for agriculture, energy and human consumption, between 2000 and 2008 dropped at a rate that was almost three times as great as any time during the 20th century, U.S. officials said on Monday.

The accelerated decline in the subterranean reservoirs is due to a combination of factors, most of them linked to rising population in the United States, according to Leonard Konikow, a research hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

The big rise in water use started in 1950, at the time of an economic boom and the spread of U.S. suburbs. However, the steep increase in water use and the drop in groundwater levels that followed World War 2 were eclipsed by the changes during the first years of the 21st century, the study showed.

As consumers, farms and industry used more water starting in 2000, aquifers were also affected by climate changes, with less rain and snow filtering underground to replenish what was being pumped out, Konikow said in a telephone interview from Reston, Virginia.

Depletion of groundwater can cause land to subside, cut yields from existing wells, and diminish the flow of water from springs and streams.

Agricultural irrigation is the biggest user of water from aquifers in the United States, though the energy industry, including oil and coal extraction, is also a big user.

The USGS study looked at 40 different aquifers from 1900 through 2008 and found that the historical average of groundwater depletion – the amount the underground reservoirs lost each year – was 7.5 million acre-feet (9.2 cubic kilometers).

From 2000 to 2008, the average was 20.2 million acre-feet (25 cubic kilometers) a year. (An acre-foot is the volume of water needed to cover an acre to the depth of one foot.)

One of the best-known aquifers, the High Plains Aquifer, also known as the Oglala, had the highest levels of groundwater depletion starting in the 1960s. It lies beneath parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, where water demand from agriculture is high and where recent drought has hit hard.

Because it costs more to pump water from lower levels in an aquifer, some farmers may give up, or irrigate fewer fields, Konikow said. Another problem with low water levels underground is that water quality can deteriorate, ultimately becoming too salty to use for irrigation.

“That’s a real limit on water,” Konikow said. “You could always say that if we have enough money, you build a desalization plant and solve the problem, but that really is expensive.”

(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Obama Speeds Up Preparations For Air Strikes, No-Fly Zone, As U.S., Russia Split War-Torn Syria Into Spheres Of Influence

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm

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Oldspeak:“War #7 is imminent.  “US President Barack Obama has ordered the US Navy and Air Force to accelerate preparations for a limited air offensive against the Assad regime and the imposition of no-fly zones over Syria” The script is remarkably similar to the one used in Libya & Iraq.  Insert U.S. backed, foreign-born “revolutionaries” and clandestinely funnel financial and military support to native dissident militant groups to instigate a civil war with the regime to be changed. Play up alleged atrocities committed by the regime in media, to provide pretext for the coming invasion/coup de etat. Play up condemnations of the dictator to be removed by the “international community”. After invasion, insert military dictatorship/puppet regime obedient to U.S. interests. Divvy up “reconstruction” and resource extraction contracts among American/European corporations. Appropriation complete. The Russians held out giving their blessing long enough to ensure they’d retain control over at least a portion of their client state.”

Related Video:

Obama accelerates preparations for limited air strike, no-fly zones in Syria

Related Story:

U.S. Secretly Backed Syrian Opposition Groups, Wikileaks Cables Show

The Truth Behind The Coming “Regime Change” In Syria

 

By DebkaFile:

US President Barack Obama has ordered the US Navy and Air Force to accelerate preparations for a limited air offensive against the Assad regime and the imposition of no-fly zones over Syria, debkafile reports. Their mission will be to knock out Assad’s central regime and military command centers so as to shake regime stability and restrict Syrian army and air force activity for subduing rebel action and wreaking violence on civilian populations.

Debkafile’s sources disclose that the US President decided on this step after hearing Russian officials stating repeatedly that “Moscow would support the departure of President Bashar al-Assad if Syrians agreed to it.”  This position was interpreted as opening up two paths of action:

1.  To go for Assad’s removal by stepping up arms supplies to the rebels and organizing their forces as a professional force able to take on the military units loyal to Assad. This process was already in evidence Friday, June 8, when for the first time a Syrian Free Army (which numbers some 600 men under arms) attacked a Syrian army battalion in Damascus. One of its targets was a bus carrying Russian specialists.

2.  To select a group of high army officers who, under the pressure of the limited air offensive, would be ready to ease Assad out of power or stage a military coup to force him and his family to accept exile.

The US operation would be modulated according to the way political and military events unfolded.
Washington is not sure how Moscow would react aside from sharp condemnations or whether Russia would accept a process of regime change in Damascus and its replacement by military rule.

Syria is being further wrenched apart as a result of US President Barack Obama’s maneuverings for winning Russian cooperation in resolving the Syrian conflict for US concessions in the nuclear controversy with Iran: As the coming DEBKA-Net-Weekly out Friday reveals, Russia is cementing its grip on Syria’s Mediterranean coast while pushing its civil war-torn heartland over to the Americans.

To spoil the Russian game, the US hopes to draw Damascus into the Syrian revolt, a goal only achievable with air force aid.

US Accelerates Preparations For ‘no-fly zone’ In Syria

By RT:

The United States may soon take on a formal role in the Syrian uprising after reports surfaced this week that suggest the White House wants an air offensive targeting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

After over a year of unrest in Syria, Israel’s Debka news agency reports that US President Barack Obama has asked the US Navy and Air Force to accelerate plans that would aid in the ousting of Assad. According to their sources, President Obama hopes that by initiating a temporary air strike in locales instrumental to the Syrian government, the US may be able to decimate Assad’s control by attacking his regime’s military command centers.

The US would call for a no-fly zone over Syria, reports Debka, then send their own personnel to strike Assad-aligned targets.

Murmurings of the latest plans out of Washington come less than two weeks after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) called for the implementation of a no-fly zone. Speaking to reporters last month, Sen. Graham said that ousting Assad from control in Syria is much more crucial for America’s interests than the issue of Libya; last year the US aided in the removal of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi from Libyan rule.

“Compared to Libya, the strategic upside of taking out (Syrian President Bashar) Assad is far greater,” said Graham, who currently sits on the US Senate Committee of Armed Services. “We’ve used force to stop slaughter less strategic and egregious than this.”

Debka’s reports also come days after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that, in terms of US involvement in Syria,“military action is always an option,” although he added, “We do not believe that … further militarization of the situation in Syria at this point is the right course of action.” Less than two weeks later, however, the White House may have already changed their stance.

According to Debka, Washington’s rumored change of heart may have something to do with reports out of Russia. Sources speaking with the news agency say that US President Obama asked for an accelerated attack on Syria’s leaders after hearing Russian officials allegedly say, “Moscow would support the departure of President Bashar al-Assad if Syrians agreed to it.”

Debka adds that, to carry out the plan, the US will equip Syrian rebels with military supplies so that they could out attack Assad’s regime on the ground after an American-led airstrikes. It is believed that Assad’s government is currently using unmanned surveillance air drones to patrol the countryside for rebel forces only to then order strikes targeted them.

 

 

 

Barack Obama Signs Pact With Hamid Karzai To Keep U.S. Troops In Afghanistan Through 2024

In Uncategorized on May 1, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Oldspeak:”I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.”  Candidate Barack Obama, October 27, 2007 Welp. So much for ending the war in Afghanistan. Keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan virtually guarantees this war will continue until 2024.  The Taliban has no interest in negotiating peace while  American troops are in Afghanistan. I’m sure this development will make the Military Industrial Complex very happy. No comment on the 1,000 of mercenaries and private army soldiers there too.  Or the TAPI Pipeline that needs to be protected.  Yet another campaign promise, broken. This resource war trumps that promise. This is the nature of a Unitary Executive. Making “surprise trip” to a war zone to Sign a war pact that affect us all with no input from constituents, or their “representatives” in Congress.  I have no words.”

By Ben Farmer @ The U.K. Telegraph:

The agreement would allow not only military trainers to stay to build up the Afghan army and police, but also American special forces soldiers and air power to remain.

The prospect of such a deal has already been met with anger among Afghanistan’s neighbours including, publicly, Iran and, privately, Pakistan.

It also risks being rejected by the Taliban and derailing any attempt to coax them to the negotiating table, according to one senior member of Hamid Karzai’s peace council.

A withdrawal of American troops has already begun following an agreement to hand over security for the country to Kabul by the end of 2014.

But Afghans wary of being abandoned are keen to lock America into a longer partnership after the deadline. Many analysts also believe the American military would like to retain a presence close to Pakistan, Iran and China.

Both Afghan and American officials said that they hoped to sign the pact before the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan in December. Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai agreed last week to escalate the negotiations and their national security advisers will meet in Washington in September.

Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Mr Karzai’s top security adviser, told The Daily Telegraph that “remarkable progress” had been made. US officials have said they would be disappointed if a deal could not be reached by December and that the majority of small print had been agreed.

Dr Spanta said a longer-term presence was crucial not only to build Afghan forces, but also to fight terrorism.

“If [the Americans] provide us weapons and equipment, they need facilities to bring that equipment,” he said. “If they train our police and soldiers, then those trainers will not be 10 or 20, they will be thousands.

“We know we will be confronted with international terrorists. 2014, is not the end of international terrorist networks and we have a common commitment to fight them. For this purpose also, the US needs facilities.”

Afghan forces would still need support from US fighter aircraft and helicopters, he predicted. In the past, Washington officials have estimated a total of 25,000 troops may be needed.

Dr Spanta added: “In the Afghan proposal we are talking about 10 years from 2014, but this is under discussion.” America would not be granted its own bases, and would be a guest on Afghan bases, he said. Pakistan and Iran were also deeply opposed to the deal.

Andrey Avetisyan, Russian ambassador to Kabul, said: “Afghanistan needs many other things apart from the permanent military presence of some countries. It needs economic help and it needs peace. Military bases are not a tool for peace.

“I don’t understand why such bases are needed. If the job is done, if terrorism is defeated and peace and stability is brought back, then why would you need bases?

“If the job is not done, then several thousand troops, even special forces, will not be able to do the job that 150,000 troops couldn’t do. It is not possible.”

A complete withdrawal of foreign troops has been a precondition for any Taliban negotiations with Mr Karzai’s government and the deal would wreck the currently distant prospect of a negotiated peace, Mr Avetisyan said.

Abdul Hakim Mujahid, deputy leader of the peace council set up by Mr Karzai to seek a settlement, said he suspected the Taliban had intensified their insurgency in response to the prospect of the pact. “They want to put pressure on the world community and Afghan government,” he said

EPA Links Tainted Water In Wyoming To Hydraulic Fracturing For Natural Gas

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Oldspeak:”‘Chemicals used to hydraulically fracture rocks in drilling for natural gas in a remote valley in central Wyoming are the likely cause of contaminated local water supplies, federal regulators said Thursday. The energy industry has long stressed that fracking and water contamination have never been definitively linked,’ despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. Thanks to a recent report, all those bullshit Exxon and Chevron commercials espousing the virtues of natural gas drilling can be exposed for what they are. Bright, shining lies. Hopefully this new information will help the Obama administration decide to put the kibosh on energy industry plans to drill in the fragile Marcellus Shale which if approved, will in all probability contaminate the drinking water of 15 million people from Delaware , New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Recent history suggests he’ll vote yes. God help us all.

Related Stories:

Fracking With Food: How The Natural Gas Industry Poisons Cows And Crops

Two Big Decisions Loom On The Fate Of Drinking Water For 15,800,000 People Living Near The Marcellus Shale In Northeast U.S.

By Kirk Johnson @ The New York Times:

Chemicals used to hydraulically fracture rocks in drilling for natural gas in a remote valley in central Wyoming are the likely cause of contaminated local water supplies, federal regulators said Thursday.

The draft report, after a three-year study by the Environmental Protection Agency, represents a new scientific and political skirmish line over whether fracking, as it is more commonly known, poses a threat in the dozens of places around the nation where it is now being used to extract previously unreachable energy resources locked within rock.

The study, which was prompted by complaints from local residents about the smell and taste of their water, stressed that local conditions were unusual at the site, called the Pavillion field, in that the gas wells were far shallower than in many other drilling areas around the country. The shallow depth means that natural gas itself can seep upward naturally through the rock, and perhaps into aquifers.

But the suite of chemicals found in two test wells drilled at the site, the report said, could not be explained entirely by natural processes. The agency’s analysis of samples taken from deep monitoring wells in the aquifer indicated the presence of synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids, benzene concentrations well above standards in the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards, and high methane levels.

Also complicating the inquiry is the Pavillion field’s long history. The oldest wells there were drilled 40 years ago or more, and chemicals that might have been used were not required to be listed or reported to anyone.

The energy industry has long stressed that fracking and water contamination have never been definitively linked.

“When considered together with other lines of evidence, the data indicates likely impact to ground water that can be explained by hydraulic fracturing,” the draft study said. And perhaps just as crucially, the evidence also suggested that seepage of natural gas itself had increased around the drilling sites. Natural gas is often mixed with other elements, including methane, which can taint water supplies.

“Data suggest that enhanced migration of gas has occurred within ground water at depths used for domestic water supply,” said the draft study, which will now be sent for scientific peer review and public comment.

A spokesman for Encana Oil & Gas (USA), which bought the Pavillion field in 2004 and drilled some of the approximately 169 wells there, said the E.P.A.’s science was inconclusive. Encana’s parent company is based in Calgary.

“What we have here is not a conclusion, but a probability — and based on the facts, not a good probability,” said Doug Hock, the company’s spokesman. He said that enhanced migration of gas as a result of drilling was unlikely in the Pavillion field, since drilling had reduced pressure in the underlying rock, thus reducing forces that can lead to gas seepage. And finding methane and benzene in two deep test wells drilled for the study, he said, is what you would expect in a gas-rich zone.

“Encana didn’t put those there, nature did,” he said.

The governor of Wyoming, Matt Mead, also said in a statement that the E.P.A.’s conclusions were “scientifically questionable” and not based on enough data. Mr. Mead, a Republican, called for more testing by the E.P.A., in conjunction with a state group of residents, state and federal agencies, and Indian tribes already at work looking into questions about Pavillion’s water supply.

Wyoming, which is dependent on oil and gas drilling, along withcoal mining, as anchors of its economy, will also be among the peer reviewers of the E.P.A.’s draft, the governor’s statement said. The chairman of a local Pavillion residents’ group — about 200 people, mostly involved in farming and ranching, who live in proximity to the drilling sites — expressed gratitude to the E.P.A., and perhaps a bit of veiled doubt about the zeal of local and state regulators.

“This investigation proves the importance of having a federal agency that can protect people and the environment,” said John Fenton, the chairman of Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens. “Those of us who suffer the impacts from the unchecked development in our community are extremely happy the contamination source is being identified.”

Gas drilling, using both hydraulic fracturing to release gas and horizontal drilling techniques that can snake underground far from the actual bore holes, is now moving into closer proximity to American population centers than in the past.

From the suburbs of Denver to Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, natural gas reserves, known about but previously unreachable for economic and technological reasons, are being tapped, and anxieties about the hydraulic injection process and its consequences are growing. Wyoming, in 2010, became one of the first states to require petroleum companies or their contractors to disclose the ingredients in their specially formulated fracking fluids. The E.P.A. has also begun a national study on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.

Two Big Decisions Loom On The Fate Of Drinking Water For 15,800,000 People Living Near The Marcellus Shale In Northeast U.S.

In Uncategorized on November 11, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Oldspeak:” Not for nothin but Fuck Herman Cain. We have more important things to think about. With mountains of evidence demonstrating the grave threats to the free, natural water supply for millions of Americans and irreversible environmental damage done by high pressure hydraulic fracking, the fact that some states will be voting to allow it to go ahead, amid tens of thousands of objections, with grossly inadequate restrictions and regulations, one begins to understand the breath and scope of control the Transnational Corporate Network has over the U.S. government and indeed countless governments worldwide. Natural gas/oil drilling and production are demonstrably dangerous and environmentally devastating means of energy production. Everyone knows this, innumerable accidents worldwide leave no doubt. Yet it continues unabated. 5 people will decide the fate drinking water 15 million. Oil and Natural gas corporations wield infinitely greater power over our political and regulatory systems than the majority of people who supposedly elected officials to represent their interests.  Democracy Inaction. One has to wonder why there is so much pressure and power behind the efforts to proceed with efforts that will in all probability lead to permanent contamination of freely and naturally produced water supplies for millions worldwide, coinciding with curiously sparse corporate news coverage of this issue. Could this be a roundabout way of forcing transitions to privatized water production and distribution? Once people’s water is contaminated, they’ll be left with little other choice than paying for and drinking commercially produced water. Hmmm. Stranger things have happened.”

Related Story:

New Fracking Regulations For The Delaware Basin Unacceptable To Environmentalists

By Stephen Wishnia @ Alter Net:

The fate of fracking in the Northeast may be determined soon.

On Nov. 21, the Delaware River Basin Commission, comprising representatives from four states (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware) and the federal government, will vote on whether to allow the intensive method of natural-gas drilling in the river’s watershed. The watershed, which supplies drinking water for more than 15 million people, overlaps the eastern end of the Marcellus Shale, an underground geological formation touted as the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.”

The commission’s rules, which will apply in the Delaware watershed, will overlap with state regulations. Pennsylvania already allows fracking. New York is in the process of developing regulations about where it might be allowed and under what conditions. The state Department of Environmental Conservation will hold public hearings in November, and says it will decide sometime next year. Many environmental activists believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo is fast-tracking the issue.

The Background

Fracking is currently on hold in New York and the Delaware watershed while regulations are being developed. In Pennsylvania west of the Delaware watershed, more than 4,000 wells have been drilled since 2005, with almost 1,500 started this year.

The proposed Delaware River regulations will be released Nov. 7. Environmental activists are pessimistic about both processes. “We know they’re going to going to be bad,” says Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of Delaware Riverkeeper. “We don’t know how bad.”

“The fix is in in both,” says Bruce Ferguson of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy. “Cuomo’s going to shove it down our throats.”

Fracking — a nickname for “high-volume hydraulic fracturing” — involves drilling down into shale layers thousands of feet underground, then pumping in thousands of gallons of water, sand and often toxic additives to shatter the shale and enable gas trapped in it to bubble up through the pipes. Unlike traditional gas wells, which go straight up and down, fracking wells are drilled out horizontally once they reach the shale. The process is fraught with environmental hazards, from above ground spills to the possibility of gas and the toxic chemicals used leaking into groundwater.

The Marcellus Shale is a layer of black shale rich in organic materials along the west side of the Appalachian Mountains. Formed about 400 million years ago, it covers the area under eastern Ohio, most of Pennsylvania, almost all of West Virginia, the Maryland panhandle, and upstate New York from the Southern Tier counties along the Pennsylvania border to the Catskill Mountains. Most of it is more than a mile underground, but the areas where it is closer to the surface — northern Pennsylvania and upstate New York — are where the gas is purest and most easily accessible.

NY Learning from Pennsylvania’s Mistakes?

Pennsylvania has relatively loose regulations. It allows drilling as little as 100 feet away from streams or wetlands and 200 feet from a structure. While it prohibits companies from dumping drilling waste into streams or unlined pits, it lets them store it in open-air pits, as long as the pits are lined with a synthetic material.

The proposed New York regulations, at least the draft issued in September, would be somewhat stricter. They would allow fracking in an estimated 80 percent of the Marcellus Shale, but would ban it within 2,000 feet of public drinking-water supplies and within 500 feet of private wells. They would require “flowback” — the water that returns to the Earth’s surface after fracking, which contains numerous toxic chemicals used in the process — to be stored in watertight tanks. Most important for both political and environmental reasons, they would prohibit fracking within 4,000 feet of the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, as both cities do not filter their water supplies, and it would cost billions of dollars to build filtration plants.

“In developing the permitting process for high-volume hydraulic fracturing, DEC’s number one priority is to protect drinking water for all New Yorkers,” says a Department of Environmental Conservation spokesperson. “New York has taken a cautious and deliberate approach to propose the strictest standards in the nation that are based on sound science and engineering principles. The draft SGEIS [supplemental generic environmental impact statement] contains multiple barriers to protect the state’s drinking water and public health, which include generous buffers around water supplies.”

Richard Young, a geology professor at the State University of New York at Geneseo, calls the buffers “ridiculous.” In fracking, he says, water is pumped underground at pressures of 15,000 pounds per square inch, capable of lifting an 8,000-foot column of rock. This would force the gas and the chemicals used up into fractures in the earth, where they then would inevitably wind up in groundwater.

“There’s lots of faults and fractures in New York State that nobody has mapped. Once you start pressurizing them, there’s no controlling where things go,” he explains. “The cleanup costs would be astronomical even if you could do it. Once you contaminate water underground over a broad area, there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s no bailout plan.”

A Duke University study released in May found methane gas concentrations averaging 19.2 milligrams per liter in water from wells within 1,000 meters of shale-gas well pads in Pennsylvania and upstate New York-17 times the amount of methane in wells farther away. The methane found was distinctly “thermogenic,” prehistoric and from deep underground, rather than “biogenic,” from recent organic decay near the surface. The study listed three possible sources of water contamination: that the process itself had forced gas and toxic chemicals up into aquifers; leaks from defective drill pipes closer to the surface; and spills above ground.

“Methane migration through the 1- to 2-km-thick geological formations that overlie the Marcellus and Utica shales is less likely as a mechanism for methane contamination than leaky well casings,” it said, “but might be possible due to both the extensive fracture systems reported for these formations and the many older, uncased wells drilled and abandoned over the last century and a half in Pennsylvania and New York.”

“Every time you drill a well, be it a water well or a gas well, you’re breaking a seal, says William Kappel, a hydrologist with the United States Geological Service office in Ithaca, New York. Still, he says the chances are “nil” that fracking would force toxins up into groundwater. The intense pressure used, he explains, is to balance the high pressure underground, and the actual pumping takes only 15 to 20 minutes. Underground vertical faults are very small, he adds, sometimes as thin as a sheet of paper. They can be as much as 1,000 feet long at depths of 7,000 feet, but closer to the surface, they are shorter and much more likely to be horizontal.

From the data he’s seen, he says, leaks from vertical drilling pipes are a far more likely hazard.

That is what happened in Dimock, Pennsylvania, a town of 1,400 people near the New York border, in April 2010. The cement casing around a drill pipe cracked, allowing methane to leak into the groundwater, poisoning 19 wells. The water in those wells contained so much methane that there was a risk it might explode. The gas that leaked in Dimock, says Kappel, was not from the Marcellus shale, but from a slightly higher geological layer. Drilling was banned in a nine-square-mile area after the leak. Cabot Energy, the operator of the defective well, signed a consent decree that it would provide water to the 19 households affected. Originally, it was going to build a pipeline to bring water from the nearby town of Montrose, but it decided that supplying 550-gallon “water buffalo” tanks was cheaper.

On Oct. 18, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said that Cabot could stop providing water to the affected households after Nov. 30.

“They said they weren’t going to spend any more money testing our water,” says Dimock resident Craig Sauter. “They said it was a done deal. One of our neighbors turned on his water today, and it came out brown and orange.”

Sauter and his wife signed a lease for $2,500 an acre in June 2008 to let Cabot drill on their land. The company promised to restore his water if it was degraded, he says, but “they never have.” When the air in his well was tested Sept. 15, he says, it contained 20 percent methane. His tap water “looked like coffee with milk in it.”

Cabot is required to give the affected households gas mitigators. “We’ve been down that road before, and it didn’t do the job,” says Sauter. The device got a lot of the methane out, he says, but his water was still contaminated with arsenic, barium, and uranium. Cabot insists those elements were there naturally.

Lawyers for the affected households may appeal the decision, but Sauter doesn’t have much faith in the courts. “I know money talks, and that’s not reassuring,” he says. The New York DEC says that properly cementing the vertical drilling pipes would have prevented the Dimock gas leaks, as well as several others that occurred in nearby wells. It contends that because the Dimock well was located on a steep hill, it would have flagged the permit application and required “site-specific permit conditions designed to address the risks associated with hillside locations.”

Other fracking hazards include the huge numbers of truck trips required to carry supplies, the amount of water needed for the process, and waste storage. Flowback contains significant amounts of toxic volatile hydrocarbons, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, as well as lead and halogenated hydrocarbons such as dichlorobromomethane. In Pennsylvania, the ponds that contain the flowback are “the size of an Olympic swimming pool and lined with plastic slightly stronger than a trash bag,” says Gloria Forouzan of Marcellus Protest in Pittsburgh. “There’s no facility in Pennsylvania that can treat this fluid.”

The New York DEC claims that its proposed testing procedures would have averted an April incident in LeRoy Township, Pennsylvania, when, after a heavy rainstorm, a valve flange at a wellhead failed and 60,000 gallons of fracking fluids spurted out. About 10,000 gallons overflowed the edges of the containment pond, and some wound up in a nearby creek. Chesapeake Energy, the well’s operator, says it had passed all safety tests before the accident.

Companies are generally not required to disclose the exact chemicals contained in specific products used in fracking, because that information is considered a “trade secret.” The Bush administration exempted fracking fluids from the Safe Drinking Water Act’s restrictions. The Earthworks Action Web site calls that the “Halliburton loophole,” because “it is widely perceived to have come about as a result of the efforts of Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force.” Halliburton is one of the top three manufacturers of fracking fluids. There are huge loopholes in the proposed New York regulations, argues Roger Downs, legislative director for the Atlantic branch of the Sierra Club. The regulations cover only wells that will use more than 300,000 gallons of water, he explains; about 5,000 are expected to use less. And the state has not considered the effect of 10,000 fracking wells, with an average of 1,200 truck trips to each one.

“They refuse to do a cumulative environmental impact statement,” he says. “They just concentrate on the impact of individual wells.” Organizing and financing the regulations is another concern. Downs estimates that the DEC would need to hire 220 new staff and spend $20 million a year to have adequate inspections and enforcement. If that doesn’t happen, he says, there will be “pandemonium,” and rules “will be negotiated at the well pad.” If the state doesn’t have solid regulations, he continues, it will be impossible for the public to sue to have them enforced.

There is no federal Environmental Protection Agency standard limiting the amount of methane in drinking water, notes Emily Wurth of Food & Water Watch. Some occurs naturally. Downs also questions whether the regulations will actually prohibit fracking in the New York and Syracuse watersheds. In any case, he adds, most people in rural central and western New York get their water from wells, so they’re also drinking unfiltered water.

Many activists believe that in order to enable fracking, Gov. Cuomo is planning to sacrifice upstate to protect New York City. “They certainly are deciding to drill around political boundaries,” Downs says.

Rural Towns Threatened

The politics of the issue come down to large gas companies versus local residents worried about having their environment poisoned, with the companies trying to win local support from the money drilling generates-in jobs and in payments to landowners. In October, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry announced that there were more than 20,000 jobs directly linked to Marcellus Shale gas development, more than twice the number in 2008, although jobs in other areas related to the gas industry fell slightly.

“This data further reinforces the undeniable fact that responsible American natural gas production is an unmatched, private-sector job-creation machine,” said a statement by Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group based in Pennsylavania.

Elmira, New York, a depressed industrial city just over the border from Pennsylvania, “is indirectly benefiting from the gas boom,” says a local environmental activist. “The influx of gas drilling service industries is using more and more of Chemung County’s underutilized industrial infrastructure. High-paying, low-skilled jobs, albeit temporary, are creating enthusiasm with the working class.”

“It’s a really complicated issue,” says Autumn Stoschek of ShaleShock, an Ithaca-based activist group. She lives in Van Etten, a small town nearby. “It’s a depressed area, but on the other hand, it’s a rural area, and people really like the outdoors.” The rural residents are more likely to display gas-company logos in their yards than the anti-fracking signs that dot the college town of Ithaca, she explains, but they’re suspicious of both environmentalists and corporations.

The Southern Tier has a long history of gas drilling, she says, but when fracking came in, “it was a big turning point,” as large corporations replaced “mom-and-pop gas companies.” Her parents signed a gas lease for $2 an acre in 1999. In 2005, Fortuna Energy drilled a horizontal well on their farm. Some now “regret that they signed the lease,” says upstate activist Lisa Wright. The gas-company “landsmen” who arranged the deals, she explains, didn’t tell them “it’s a huge industrial process. It involves hundreds of truck trips per well.”

“People had no idea what they were dealing with,” says Stoschek. “When they don’t restore your fields and leave a rubble pile, they tell you to sue them.” The pressure on homeowners to settle lawsuits is huge, says Gloria Forouzan. When people can’t live in their home because the water is destroyed, they can’t sell it either, so they are desperate-and gas companies demand silence as part of the settlement, she says.

“Working-class people don’t have the means to get a corporate lawyer to fight this kind of thing,” says Wright.

“We’re a sacrifice zone,” Stoschek concludes.

In New York’s Sullivan and Delaware counties, in the Catskill Mountains on the eastern side of the Delaware, a poll taken in early October found more than two-thirds of residents willing to support a fracking ban. The practice would bring money to the area, says Bruce Ferguson, but at the expense of tourism, farming, and land values. “People value above all the rural character,” he says. “They don’t want to live in an industrial zone.”

The Big Decision

The Delaware River Basin Commission received more than 69,000 comments from the public after its draft regulations were released last December. When it extended the comment period to April 15, the Marcellus Shale Coalition complained that it would “undermine dialogue” by “detracting from the voices of the key stakeholders… landowners, residents of the Basin, and our member companies who are investing capital and creating jobs in the region.”

The Hess company, a member of the coalition, objected to proposed restrictions on drilling within flood-hazard zones, on steep hills, or within 500 feet of water sources, saying they would affect 60 percent of the land the company has leased in the area. It urged more flexible, case-by-case rules.

Tracy Carluccio of Delaware Riverkeeper calls the draft regulations “totally inadequate” to protect the watershed. The commission has not done either a comparative environmental analysis of fracking or a cumulative-impact study, she says.

“They haven’t done the analysis to see if it could be done safely,” she says-and given the record of accidents in Pennsylvania, she adds, it can’t be done safely. “They are now putting in place the ruination of our aquifers.”

DRBC spokesperson Clarke Rupert responds that the commission’s work “was not created in an information vacuum.” It looked closely at how other areas of the country were handling fracking, he adds, and it is not required by federal law to do an environmental-impact statement.

States can enact stronger regulations than the ones the commission creates, Rupert says. The commission can also establish regulations stronger than state laws, but they would apply only to the areas within the Delaware watershed. In Pennsylvania, that would mean the counties along the river, not the western three-fourths of the state.

Activists suspect the commission has agreed not to propose regulations that would be stronger than those of any of the four states in the area. “They are opting out of anything stricter,” says Carluccio.

In May, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued the federal government, demanding that it undertake a full environmental review before it allows gas drilling in the Delaware watershed. On Oct. 13, the Philadelphia City Council voted to join the suit.

Three of the five members’ votes are needed for the commission to approve regulations. Pennsylvania is considered a sure yes, as Gov. Tom Corbett is a strong supporter of fracking. He considers it a panacea for the state’s economy, and he received more than $1 million from oil and gas interests in his 2010 campaign. In April, after he proposed slashing the state’s higher education budget by half, he suggested that state colleges could offset the cuts by putting well pads on campus.

The other members’ votes are in play, activists say. In New Jersey, the state legislature recently passed a bill to ban fracking, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it. Delaware, which is at the mouth of the river, might be more likely to vote no. Andrew Cuomo may want fracking in New York, but may also want to get his own state’s regulations through first. Environmentalists have been urging the Obama administration to vote no.

Ultimately, says William Kappel, the question is of “relative risk.” He’s worked on drilling rigs, and “accidents do occur.”

All industrial processes cause some environmental degradation; it’s the price we pay for living at a standard above hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers. Yet there is only so much damage the Earth can take. Is the risk that fracking poses to our drinking water worth the amount of energy it creates and the money it provides?

Steven Wishnia is a New York-based journalist and musician. The author of Exit 25 Utopia and The Cannabis Companion, he has won two New York City Independent Press Association awards for his coverage of housing issues.

The 1% Are Fracking the Rest of Us … Literally

 

 

The 1% Frack the 99%

 

As the Emmy-winning documentary Gasland demonstrates, hydrofracking (“fracking” for short) is

polluting water all over the country.

As I noted in August, the government has also officially stated that fracking can cause earthquakes.

A fracking company in the UK admitted last week that their activity was causing earthquakes.

As the New York Daily News notes, many locals suspect fracking of causing the largest earthquake in Oklahoma in 200 years:

Scientists are puzzled by the recent seismic activity.

***

There are 181 injection wells in the Oklahoma county where most of the weekend earthquakes happened, said Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which oversees oil and gas production in the state and intrastate transportation pipelines.*

Of course, the good folks making money hand over fist by fracking are encouraging open and truthful debate about the risks of fracking, right?

Well, not exactly.

Actor Mark Ruffalo was put on terror watch list after he organized showings of Gasland – the Emmy-award winner – part of a trend of using national security laws to protect big companies (more).

And fracking companies are using military psychological operations techniques to discredit opponents(and see this).

In short, the 1% are fracking the rest of us.

JP Morgan and BP Are Fracking Us, Too

JP Morgan was – at the time of last year’s Gulf oil spill – the largest owner of BP.

BP is ending its clean up operations in the Gulf.

Too bad the well is probably still leaking (and see this).

Indeed, the BP Gulf oil spill, the financial crisis, Fukushima and other major disasters were all caused by the 1%: (1) making insane bets that nothing would blow up, and (2) cutting every possible safety measure to make more money.

And exactly like the toxic financial assets that the big banks dumped onto the national balance sheets of Greece, Italy, America and elsewhere – and ultimately the people – JP Morgan, BP and the U.S. government are dumping the cost of the Gulf disaster on the backs of the American people.

U.S. Secretly Backed Syrian Opposition Groups, Wikileaks Cables Show

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2011 at 10:08 am

Syrian anti-government protesters march in Banias, Syria. The Arabic banner at center reads: "All of us would die for our country.”

Oldspeak:”While the drumbeat for “intervention” in Syria is played up in corporate media with the pretext of concerns about a “deteriorating humanitarian situation”, understand that all is not what it seems. We’ve seen this movie before. Just as in Libya, the U.S. has bankrolled the “opposition” surreptitiously, with the objective as in Libya being regime change and oil appropriation. You should also understand that this development is part of a grand plan devised long before the “Arab Spring” started to flow. “The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” While the “Grand Area” doctrine is relentlessly pursued, 1 in 5 Americans are on food stamps and/or unemployed. “Ignorance is Strength

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Syrian opposition accuses UN of ‘moment of shame’ over resolution

By Craig Whitlock @ The Washington Post:

Published: April 17 2011

The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.

The London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow the country’s autocratic leader, Bashar al-Assad. Human rights groups say scores of people have been killed by Assad’s security forces since the demonstrations began March 18; Syria has blamed the violence on “armed gangs.”

Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria. The channel is named after the Barada River, which courses through the heart of Damascus, the Syrian capital.

The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad. In January, the White House posted an ambassador to Damascus for the first time in six years.

The cables, provided by the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks, show that U.S. Embassy officials in Damascus became worried in 2009 when they learned that Syrian intelligence agents were raising questions about U.S. programs. Some embassy officials suggested that the State Department reconsider its involvement, arguing that it could put the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Damascus at risk.

Syrian authorities “would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change,” read an April 2009 cablesigned by the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Damascus at the time. “A reassessment of current U.S.-sponsored programming that supports anti-[government] factions, both inside and outside Syria, may prove productive,” the cable said.

It is unclear whether the State Department is still funding Syrian opposition groups, but the cables indicate money was set aside at least through September 2010. While some of that money has also supported programs and dissidents inside Syria, The Washington Post is withholding certain names and program details at the request of the State Department, which said disclosure could endanger the recipients’ personal safety.

Syria, a police state, has been ruled by Assad since 2000, when he took power after his father’s death. Although the White House has condemned the killing of protesters in Syria, it has not explicitly called for his ouster.

The State Department declined to comment on the authenticity of the cables or answer questions about its funding of Barada TV.

Tamara Wittes, a deputy assistant secretary of state who oversees the democracy and human rights portfolio in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, said the State Department does not endorse political parties or movements.
“We back a set of principles,” she said. “There are a lot of organizations in Syria and other countries that are seeking changes from their government. That’s an agenda that we believe in and we’re going to support.”

The State Department often funds programs around the world that promote democratic ideals and human rights, but it usually draws the line at giving money to political opposition groups.

In February 2006, when relations with Damascus were at a nadir, the Bush administration announced that it would award $5 million in grants to “accelerate the work of reformers in Syria.”

But no dissidents inside Syria were willing to take the money, for fear it would lead to their arrest or execution for treason, according to a 2006 cable from the U.S. Embassy, which reported that “no bona fide opposition member will be courageous enough to accept funding.”

Around the same time, Syrian exiles in Europe founded the Movement for Justice and Development. The group, which is banned in Syria, openly advocates for Assad’s removal. U.S. cables describe its leaders as “liberal, moderate Islamists” who are former members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Barada TV

It is unclear when the group began to receive U.S. funds, but cables show U.S. officials in 2007 raised the idea of helping to start an anti-Assad satellite channel.

People involved with the group and with Barada TV, however, would not acknowledge taking money from the U.S. government.

“I’m not aware of anything like that,” Malik al-Abdeh, Barada TV’s news director, said in a brief telephone interview from London.

Abdeh said the channel receives money from “independent Syrian businessmen” whom he declined to name. He also said there was no connection between Barada TV and the Movement for Justice and Development, although he confirmed that he serves on the political group’s board. The board is chaired by his brother, Anas.

“If your purpose is to smear Barada TV, I don’t want to continue this conversation,” Malik al-Abdeh said. “That’s all I’m going to give you.”

Other dissidents said that Barada TV has a growing audience in Syria but that its viewer share is tiny compared with other independent satellite news channels such as al-Jazeera and BBC Arabic. Although Barada TV broadcasts 24 hours a day, many of its programs are reruns. Some of the mainstay shows are “Towards Change,” a panel discussion about current events, and “First Step,” a program produced by a Syrian dissident group based in the United States.

Ausama Monajed, another Syrian exile in London, said he used to work as a producer for Barada TV and as media relations director for the Movement for Justice and Development but has not been “active” in either job for about a year. He said he now devotes all his energy to the Syrian revolutionary movement, distributing videos and protest updates to journalists.

He said he “could not confirm” any U.S. government support for the satellite channel, because he was not involved with its finances. “I didn’t receive a penny myself,” he said.
Several U.S. diplomatic cables from the embassy in Damascus reveal that the Syrian exiles received money from a State Department program called the Middle East Partnership Initiative. According to the cables, the State Department funneled money to the exile group via the Democracy Council, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit. According to its Web site, the council sponsors projects in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America to promote the “fundamental elements of stable societies.”

The council’s founder and president, James Prince, is a former congressional staff member and investment adviser for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Reached by telephone, Prince acknowledged that the council administers a grant from the Middle East Partnership Initiative but said that it was not “Syria-specific.”

Prince said he was “familiar with” Barada TV and the Syrian exile group in London, but he declined to comment further, saying he did not have approval from his board of directors. “We don’t really talk about anything like that,” he said.

The April 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Damascus states that the Democracy Council received $6.3 million from the State Department to run a Syria-related program called the “Civil Society Strengthening Initiative.” That program is described as “a discrete collaborative effort between the Democracy Council and local partners” to produce, among other things, “various broadcast concepts.” Other cables make clear that one of those concepts was Barada TV.

U.S. allocations

Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman, said the Middle East Partnership Initiative has allocated $7.5 million for Syrian programs since 2005. A cable from the embassy in Damascus, however, pegged a much higher total — about $12 million — between 2005 and 2010.

The cables report persistent fears among U.S. diplomats that Syrian state security agents had uncovered the money trail from Washington.

September 2009 cable reported that Syrian agents had interrogated a number of people about “MEPI operations in particular,” a reference to the Middle East Partnership Initiative.

“It is unclear to what extent [Syrian] intelligence services understand how USG money enters Syria and through which proxy organizations,” the cable stated, referring to funding from the U.S. government. “What is clear, however, is that security agents are increasingly focused on this issue.”

U.S. diplomats also warned that Syrian agents may have “penetrated” the Movement for Justice and Development by intercepting its communications.

June 2009 cable listed the concerns under the heading “MJD: A Leaky Boat?” It reported that the group was “seeking to expand its base in Syria” but had been “initially lax in its security, often speaking about highly sensitive material on open lines.”

The cable cited evidence that the Syrian intelligence service was aware of the connection between the London exile group and the Democracy Council in Los Angeles. As a result, embassy officials fretted that the entire Syria assistance program had been compromised.

“Reporting in other channels suggest the Syrian [Mukhabarat] may already have penetrated the MJD and is using the MJD contacts to track U.S. democracy programming,” the cable stated. “If the [Syrian government] does know, but has chosen not to intervene openly, it raises the possibility that the [government] may be mounting a campaign to entrap democracy activists.”

 

 

Fracking Insiders Score Big In New Gas Bill, But Americans Not Told The True Costs Of Massive Drilling Plan

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2011 at 10:35 am

Oldspeak: “Drill Baby Drill: Redux. Yet another demonstratably dangerous and unclean alternative energy source Obama has thrown his weight behind. Nevermind  everywhere land is fracked people not having clean water to drink and exponentially increased cancer risks from all the acutely toxic poisons used to extract “natural gas”. When Obama is touting the virtues of the “Pickens Plan” by the T. Boone Pickens who bankrolled the vicious and libelous “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” Campaign against John Kerry in ’04, somethin ain’t right. When Pickens morphs into Obama’s biggest cheerleader and Pickens and his lot have contributed cash to Obama and the bills other major sponsors, one has to wonder if this is really about “securing america’s energy future”.

By Steve Horn @ PR Watch:

Corporate insiders peddling the claim that drilling for methane gas will solve America’s energy needs just scored big in Washington — and for these insiders fracking [5] for gas isvery lucrative business. House Resolution 1380, given the feel-good moniker of the “New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act ” or “NAT GAS Act,” was announced on Wednesday, April 6, in the U. S. House of Representatives. The bill [6] is 24-pages long and rewards the fracking industry with tax credits and products to help “drive” consumption. The bigger the vehicle, the more tax credits given.

This initiative to expand the controversial fracking [5] process — which has already resulted in contaminated wells and rivers [7] and even ignitable tap water [8] for some — is beingspearheaded in Congress [9] by Reps. John Sullivan (R-Oklahoma) [10], Dan Boren (D-Oklahoma) [11], John Larson (D-Connecticut) [12], and Kevin Brady (R-Texas) [13]. The bill has77 co-sponsors [14], with 40 Democrats [15] in support, and 37 Republicans [16], from 33 different states [17].

But, perhaps its most powerful supporter or potential supporter is President Barack Obama [18]. Just two weeks ago, he alluded to being a strong supporter of a bill of this nature in a speech on March 30 [19] on “America’s Energy Security” at Georgetown University. In that address, he specifically mentioned T. Boone Pickens [20]‘s name when discussing legislation to support expanded fracking for methane.

Pickens Hearts Methane: A Quick Review

As has been documented by PR Watch [21], T. Boone Pickens is a diehard advocate of methane gas [22] drilling in the Marcellus Shale [23] basin of the U.S. and elsewhere, vis-a-vis what he has coined as the “Pickens Plan [24]“.

Announced in July of 2008, his PR pitch is about “getting off of foreign energy sources” and “using the resources we have at home.” In theory, these soundbites could refer to greater investment in renewable resources like wind and solar energy. In practice, it has meant a push by Pickens for relentless fracking for methane in virtually every crevice of American land.

Though hailed by Pickens and other uncritical observers as an “energy efficient solution” and a “clean” energy resource, this PR spin ignores the true dangers and consequences of fracking and of the methane distribution and consumption process. Fracking [25] – using a drilling technique pioneered by Halliburton [26] that forces a concoction of hazardous chemicals and drinkable water into shale–has been well-documented in movies like Gasland [27], as well as by the Center for Media and Democracy’s Water Portal[28], as a dangerous and destructive process that shortchanges land owners, enriches drillers, and spoils land and water.

Obama Embraces the Pickens Plan

President Barack Obama [18] has fully embraced the Pickens Plan. In his March 30th speech [19] at Georgetown, Obama gave a shout out to the plan, saying,

But the potential for natural gas is enormous. And this is an area where there’s actually been some broad bipartisan agreement. Last year, more than 150 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle produced legislation providing incentives to use clean-burning natural gas in our vehicles instead of oil. And that’s a big deal. Getting 150 members of Congress to agree on anything is a big deal. And they were even joined by T. Boone Pickens, a businessman who made his fortune on oil, but who is out there making the simple point that we can’t simply drill our way out of our energy problems.

Obama also referenced [29] Pickens in a March 11 address, using the same “This is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of” talking point. In an interview after the March 11 address, Pickens praised [30] Obama in appearances on Fox News [31] and CNN [32]‘s Larry King Live [33].

The headline [34] of a March 30 Dallas Morning News article gets the headline right on what just happened: “Obama endorses Pickens plan for natural gas vehicles.” Seconding that, the Miami Herald headline [35] from April 3 reads, “Obama, oilman Pickens allied on natural gas push.” The lead of that article states, “The centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s new energy policy mirrors the plan trumpeted for more than two years by a one-time GOP juggernaut: Dallas oilman T. Boone Pickens.”

This is the same oilman who was a huge funder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth [36] – he gave some $3 million, according to a story by Politico.com [37], to the organization that is infamous for the smear campaign it ran against [38] John Kerry [39] in the 2004 Presidential Election [40].

Obama [41] and Pickens [42] both also claim that, for “national security” purposes, we need to end our addiction to foreign oil, particularly from OPEC [43] countries. Yet, government reports show that gas companies are exporting an increasing amount of methane gas drilled throughout the U.S. to other countries [44], thus adding to the profits of the industry as it depletes the gas supply available to Americans.

Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal [45] reported [46] that two big Houston, Texas methane gas drilling companies, Freeport LNG [47] and Cheniere Energy [48], are entering the export market. U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), one of the bill’s original four sponsors, represents Texas’s 8th congressional district [49], which is located just outside of Houston. These two [50] companies [51], lo and behold, are headquartered in Houston.

The Wall Street Journal article also mentioned [46], “Major gas producers, including Chesapeake Energy [52] Corp. and EnCana Corporation [53], are enthusiastic about the idea.”

Additionally, a cursory look toward Afghanistan [54] and Iraq [55], two countries the United States military is currently occupying, shows that fossil fuels are on the minds of the powers-that-be and will be for years to come. The Trans-Afghainstan Pipeline [56], located in the heart of Pipelineistan [57], was a project spearheaded [58] by U.S. oil companyUnocal [59]. The pipeline procures methane gas.

Similarly, the Sourcewatch article titled “Oil and War in Iraq [60]” also shows that Iraq sits on one of the largest oil reserves in the world, much of it consisting of methane gas. That article, citing a Sept. 2008 report from The Guardian [61], states, “In September 2008, oil giant Shell [62] became the first western oil company to win significant access to the energy sector in Iraq since the 1970s, in a $4 billion deal…Shell signed an agreement with the Oil Ministry to form a joint venture with the South Oil Company [63] … to process and market natural gas extracted on 19,000 sq km (7,300 sq miles) of land.”

A National Security concern? Certainly a concern for big profits, accompanied by big spin [64].

How the “NAT GAS” Bill Story Broke and What that Tale Tells

The way the story on the bill was broken reveals a lot about how the bill came to be. The first four entities to break the story are all, as will be seen, in some way, shape and form, well-connected to Pickens: School Transportation News [65] (STN) and Natural Gas Vehicles for America [66] (NGVA), and the American Natural Gas Alliance [67] (ANGA), andClean Energy Fuels [68] (CEF). All four originally broke the story before the bill was publicly available.

ANGA consists of all of methane’s key players [69], including Cabot Oil and Gas [70], Chesapeake Energy [52], Seneca Resources [71], and EQT [72], among others. (SourceWatch has new profiles on these companies and the political donations and activities of their leaders.) ANGA showered Obama’s March 31 address with praise [73].

NGVA, on the other hand, is called a “peer group partner” of the so-called “American Clean Skies Foundation [74].” NGVA has a programming agreement through the Foundation’s PR channel, Clean Skies TV Network [74], and the Foundation is funded by Chesapeake Energy CEO, Aubrey McClendon [75]. NVGA’s spokesperson is the author of its press release on the announcement of the NAT GAS Act, and Denise McCourt, according to her LinkedIn page [76], is the former Industry Relations Director of the American Petroleum Institute [77] (API). Before that stint, she was the Director of General Membership and Member Relations.

CEF is another “peer group partner” of the American Clean Skies Foundation [74] that has a programming agreement with Clean Skies TV Network. Coming full circle, Pickens sits on its Board of Directors [78], as does John S. Herrington [79], the former United States Secretary of Energy under Ronald Reagan [80] during his second term as President. The President and CEO of CEF, Andrew J. Littlefair, according to his biography [81] on their website, is also the President of NGVA. According to that same biography, he formerly served as President of Pickens Fuel Corporation. A glance at the American Clean Skies Foundation webpage shows that he also sits on the Board of Directors [82] with McClendon.

Pickens Fuel Corporation is the predecessor of CEF, which Littlefair co-founded in 1997 with Pickens. It was reincorporated [83] as CEF in 2001. CEF dedicated [84] its first Liquified Natural Gas plant to Pickens in May 2006, according to its website. The plant is called the “Pickens Plant.” CEF’s homepage includes links to the American Clean Skies Foundation [85], Clean Skies TV Network, and the NGVA website.

A bit trickier to figure out, STN, according to its website [86], “is a monthly news and feature magazine serving the field of pupil transportation.” Two of its “industry contacts” for “vendors and suppliers” in the “alternative fuel and equipment” category include, lo and behold, NGVA [87] and CEF [88].

An e-mail exchange with the Editorial Director of STN and the author of STN’s article on the House’ introduction of the NAT GAS Act [65], John Gray, confirms that he had not yet seen a copy of the legislation when he wrote his article, but was flagged about it via a direct contact from a representative from the NGVA. Gray predicts that NGVA “were likely key authors of the legislation. My hunch is that they helped write it. Standard procedure in DC. They are a lobby.”

Many Questions to Answer, and Avenues to Explore

To be fair, it is unfortunately not uncommon for lobbyists to write drafts of legislation but that does not make it not unseemly. This situation does raise legitimate questions. The age-old questions are about wealthy interests dictating law to willing servants in the legislature. Or to put it another way, the question is whether the gas industry’s money is basically throwing its voice, like a ventriloquist, through the public’s (or industry’s) servants in Congress. And, relatedly, given all the access expensive lobbyists and donations can procure in Congress, what access if any has been given to ordinary people who have deep concerns about the the methane industry’s grand plans? Here are some more specific questions:

1. If well-connected and multi-billion dollar industries represented by groups such as CEF, the ANGA, and NGVA were the first to see this bill and know its details before it was available to the general public, did they actually write the thing, in part or in whole, themselves, as Gray suggested? Why and how did they get a head start?

2. Was there some sort of bargain negotiated between President Obama and Pickens in their mid-August 2008 meetings [89] before he became President? Did candidate Obama[90] promise to support drilling in those pre-election meetings [91]?

3. Did the $4,800 Pickens that gave to two the bill’s sponsors, Rep. John Sullivan (R-Oklohoma), and Rep. John Larson (D-Oklahoma), (figures according to the Center for Responsive Politics [92]) have any influence on their decision to propose this bill? How about the $10,000 Pickens gave to two swing states’ [93] Democratic Parties in the 2008 Presidential election, Colorado and New Mexico? Both [94] of these states [95] also sit on huge potential beds [96] of gas. How often have these reps or their staff been meeting with gas lobbyists and how much time has been given to citizens with concerns?

4. How much influence did the $327,400 campaign cash [97] doled out [98] in the 2010 election from the hand of [99] Big Oil [100] (much, but not all of which comes from methane gas companies) have on these four representatives?

5. How about the $11,000 from Aubrey McClendon [75] ($4,800 to Boren and $4,800 to Sullivan, as well as $2,300 to Obama)? How about the $37,000 that the corporation he is CEO of, Chesapeake Energy [52], doled out to the bill’s four co-sponsors? Did that money carry with it any clout?

6. Will there be any public hearings that will let people like Josh Fox and others who have documented concerns about fracking be allowed to testify before Congress?

The Center for Media and Democracy plans to keep digging into this troubling proposal and its details in the coming days and months ahead.


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