Read the full story in Science Daily.
Hydraulic fracturing has enabled a domestic oil and gas boom in the US, but its rapid growth has raised questions about what to do with the billions of gallons of wastewater that result. Researchers now report that treating the wastewater and releasing it into surface waters has led to the contamination of a Pennsylvania watershed with radioactive material and endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
Read the full story in The Hill.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has halted an Obama administration rule to cut down on pollution of methane, a greenhouse gas produced at oil and natural gas drilling wells.
Read the full post at the Climate Law Blog.
On Wednesday May 17, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a new Methane Reduction Plan, designed to advance the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. To date, state efforts have primarily focused on lowering emissions of carbon dioxide, which is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. The state has, however, recognized the need to also address methane emissions. Although methane is emitted in smaller quantities than carbon dioxide, it is much more potent, trapping up to 84 times more heat in the earth’s atmosphere in the first 20 years after it is released (on a per ton basis). Thus, according to the Governor’s office, “methane reduction is a key piece of New York’s policies to address the risks from climate change.”
The Methane Reduction Plan targets the three major sources of methane emissions: (1) the oil and gas sector, (2) agricultural producers, and (3) landfills. It identifies 25 actions to be taken across the three areas by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”), Department of Public Service (“DPS”), Energy Research and Development Authority, and Department of Agriculture. Interestingly, of those 25 actions, almost half are aimed at controlling emissions from the oil and gas sector. Those controls go significantly further than existing regulations at the federal level and may provide a model for other states looking to more tightly regulate oil and gas operations.
Read the full story in Pacific Standard.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Wednesday that it will reconsider a Barack Obama-era rule to curb emissions of methane, volatile organic compounds, and other toxic air pollutants from the oil and gas industry. The rule, which was finalized in June of 2016 and would have gone into effect in June of this year, was expected to prevent more than 500,000 tons of methane emissions by 2025—an amount equivalent to 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. But as soon as it was passed, the rule faced immediate legal challenges from oil and gas companies and several state attorneys general.
Read the full story from the University of Guelph.
Potentially explosive methane gas leaking from energy wells may travel extensively through groundwater and pose a safety risk, according to a new study by University of Guelph researchers.
Read the full story at the Climate Law Blog.
Around this time of year, back in 1859, the first oil well was drilled by Edwin Drake in north-west Pennsylvania. After a slow start – drilling initially progressed at a rate of just three feet per day – Drake struck it lucky and hit oil at a depth of 69.5 feet. The oil was brought to
the surface with a primitive hand pump and collected in a bathtub while the associated natural gas escaped into the atmosphere.
A lot has changed in the subsequent 150 years. The oil and gas industry has developed into one of the country’s most technologically advanced, able to drill deeper and access reserves that Drake never would have foreseen. Despite these advances, however, some things have remained the same. To this day, oil drillers still often allow natural gas to escape into the atmosphere, rather than capturing it. Releases also occur during gas production due to accidental leaks, intentional venting, and incomplete flaring at well sites, storage facilities, and transport systems. The Obama Administration had tried to change that, adopting various regulations to reduce gas leaks, venting, and flaring. These regulations are unlikely to survive under President Trump, however. That’s bad news for anyone concerned about climate change. Or the environment and public health more generally.