How Fracking Affects Las Animas County

Since Methane Gas Well Drilling has come to Las Animas County many have felt that it was the economic boom that Trinidad and the local area needed and it has been. But I have argued that while the Country needs Natural Gas it should not be at the expense of losing or polluting our precious ground water.

Southern Colorado, like so many communities in the Western states, was so pristine and untouched before the coalbed methane gas well drilling started here in the late 1990′s but all of that has changed. Even though the gas well drilling activity has slowed and almost come to a stop because of the current low prices the damage has been done. But we have not seen the end of the damage, it is only beginning.

In addition to the threat on our ground water our quiet county roads and communities have been turned into a commercial work zone with large heavy truck rig traffic and methane powered generators (i.e. eight cylinder motors outfitted to run on methane gas) running out in the open 24/7 on nearly every other 40 acre parcel in Las Animas County west of I-25. The beautiful quiet retreat that was once the pride of Las Animas County Colorado has disappeared.

Take a look at this screen shot from Google Earth. Do click on the image to see a larger version. Most all of the small circles that you see in this aerial screenshot that is roughly 6 miles wide by 4.5 miles high is a Gas Well site that has been fracked. Take a good look at think of the impact that has already been done to Las Animas County. And just image that with the current 80 acre spacing for gas wells that means a gas well every other 40 acre parcel. So if you don’t have a gas well on your 40 acre parcel you will have 4 wells next door.

A Goole Earth View of an area north of Weston in Las Animas County

Honestly the property owners of Las Animas County really have never had much of a voice about this issue I think because of the low population, but now that Fracking has come to areas like Pennsylvania and New York that are more populated they spreading the facts that we should be concerned about.

Check out this informative Video about Fracking and keep Las Animas County and everyone one of the currently drilled gas wells in mind and you will have an idea of the image and damage that has already been done to our ground water and quality of life.

One thing that was not mentioned in the video is about the millions of gallons of water that is removed from each gas well so that it will let the gas escape. The water in each gas well is pumped until it is removed and many of these gas wells are within our drinking water levels up to 1200 feet deep. But we are told that they are only removing water below our drinking water and this is simply not true.

One thing that you should know is that Las Animas County has no source of commerical wells or water to supply water to local residents. All water that is hauled in the County by local residents is from a Trinidad City water source. Trinidad has in the recent past put water restrictions on County residents and limited the number of people that could haul water.

And think about this for one minute…..if there is a lack of water for the City of Trinidad it is only natural to assume they will protect the City Residents and not the County Residents. The City of Trinidad owns the water rights for Monument Lake and North Lake where their water comes from and they will by all rights protect the city in case of a water shortage.

Not until there is more negative impact on our ground water and until such time as there is a water shortage for Trinidad will this entire issue be felt. I hope that we can open our eyes long before this happens and effect a change. We need to realize that our water is precious and limited….heck we all know that already but the impact of the gas well drilling is just not realized or is overlooked by the residents and County officials. How can we be so blind?

If there is no place for the Las Animas County residents to purchase water and their water wells have been either polluted or have gone dry from the removal of our ground water and the City of Trinidad puts a restriction on their water to outside the city water haulers just know that there is no other source of water.

We can not go to Walsenburg and buy water or any place else near by for that matter. And you can not purchase water from your neighbor from his Domestic Water Well. You can only purchase water from a Commercial water well and it would have to be an extremely good source of water. Las Animas County does not own a source of water!

Imagine the entire area of Las Animas County west of I-25 without ground water because that is our future unless we can change it. It feels like we will just sit idly by and watch it happen like we are doing now. Then it will be too late. We can’t ignore this any longer.

When will it stop? How will the damage ever be reversed? What will it take for us to take a stand to protect our beautiful paradise in Southern Colorado? The money and economics in a bad economy shouldn’t overrule our common sense. We have to protect our water and our future.

Local Earthquakes, the Rio Grande Rift and Fracking

We have long suspected the connection between our recent local earthquake swarms, including the large 5.3 magnitude earthquake that happened in August 2011, and the fracking and deep injection wells that are used by the Oil and Gas Industry. Recently there have been many reports connecting the oil and gas industry practices as the catalyst for causing many of these earthquakes.

What makes this even more risky in this area of Southern Colorado near Trinidad is that this area is in a known earthquake zone called the Rio Grande Rift. What this means is that Trinidad Colorado is in an area that is active and alive.

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

“The Rio Grande Rift, a thinning and stretching of Earth’s surface that extends from Colorado’s central Rocky Mountains to Mexico, is not dead but geologically alive and active, according to a new study involving scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

“We don’t expect to see a lot of earthquakes, or big ones, but we will have some earthquakes,” said CU-Boulder geological sciences Professor Anne Sheehan” Source

If you are interested tomorrow, this Wednesday April 18th, Anne Sheehan, professor of geophysics at the University of Colorado, will give her presentation “Earthquakes! Far Away and Close to Home” at 7 p.m. at the Louisville Public Library, 951 Spruce St. Louisville Colorado near Boulder. Find out more at the link below.

Read more:http://www.coloradodaily.com/latest-stories/ci_20407246/cu-boulder-geophysics-prof-give-free-talk-louisville#ixzz1sJP1B5A1
Coloradodaily.com

There seems to be an article online everyday about the relationship between the recent outbreak of earthquakes and fracking and deep injection wells used by the Oil and Gas Industry. My question is how will they regulate this and keep it from happening. I recently ran across an article that discussed that earthquakes are a “known” calculated risk by the Oil and Gas Industry.

“Small earthquakes are a recognized risk of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, a procedure in which companies unlock energy reserves by pumping millions of litres of water underground to fracture shale rock and release the natural gas trapped inside.” and “The researchers found a proportional relationship between the volume of fluid injected and the magnitude of the earthquake.”  Source

So let me ask you “if this is a calculated and recognized risks then would not the Oil and Gas Companies be responsible for any and all damages caused by the earthquakes?”. I know that a number of local residents here in Trinidad Colorado had their homes damaged by the recent earthquakes. Including the recent damage to the Historic Opera House on Main Street. All of these people have been left with anywhere from minor to serious damage to their homes and businesses and insurance will not cover the damage.

I have been following the earthquakes since the first one reported in this area from 2000 on and I find it very interesting that most of these have been located and centered near the deep injection wells and or gas wells in Las Animas County. Humm…..very interesting indeed.

Here are some recent articles on the relationship between Fracking, Deep Injection and Earthquakes around the US.

What does this mean to you? Have you been affected by the recent swarm of earthquakes and if so how? Please share your story with and comment below.

A New Method of Fracking that may not affect Ground Water

Could it be so? I have always said that there has to be a better way that will not remove or pollute our precious ground water. I hope this is the case…but the jury is still out but bottom line this is the kind of creative thinking that we need to save us from the irreparable damage that is being done to our ground water.

Read the story here: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/08/a-fracking-method-with-fewe-water-woes/

 

And let us know what you think….please comment below.

 

 

 

 

Please “Develop Coalbed Methane Carefully”

A Recent Letter to the Editor in the Billings Gazette. As you look up and down the front range of the Rocky Mountains, all the way from New Mexico to Canada, you will find heavy Methane Gas Well development. Each and every well that is producing Methane Gas, or better known as Natural Gas, from coal beds also removes or has removed a lot of ground water in order to release the methane gas.

This affects each and everyone of us living in these areas. Why? because these coalbed methane gas wells are shallow wells as compared to other areas in the country and when water is removed it can and does affect our domestic water wells and many have gone dry or have been damaged beyond repair. Not only is the water being removed but the chemicals used in fracking or developing these gas wells have not been disclosed and could be harmful for our health and the enviroment.

Here is what one family has to say,

I’m excited that people in the U.S. and in our area are looking at alternatives for energy other than oil from the Middle East. One of those efforts, which produces both energy and jobs, is coalbed methane. But it also does potential harm if done poorly or without concern for our environment and water depletion and water rights.

I’m no expert, but I understand that coalbed methane is trapped gas held in coal seams by underground water. The gas is released by pumping out the water. Sometimes as much as 20 gallons of water per minute for years and years.

The estimates for coalbed methane development are generally around 20,000 wells in southeast Montana. This many wells can pump out as much as half a trillion gallons in 10 years. Some published, respected analysis predict that groundwater aquifers could be lowered by as much as 600 feet. Wells can and will dry up.

Aquifer recharge, or pumping the water back down where it came from, is a method of coal bed methane production which allows energy companies to extract methane while maintaining the aquifers and preventing water pollution. It might cost a little more, but energy companies can still earn a profit.

The EPA is finally looking more closely at this ever increasing industry.  We need to make sure this is done properly, so that eastern Montana is not faced with disastrous side effects as happened in Butte.

Bob and Marilyn Thaden

Miles City

http://billingsgazette.com/news/opinion/mailbag/article_d4414f38-d99d-11df-ac86-001cc4c03286.html

What Chemicals are in Fracking Fluids

High Country News just posted an interesting article called

“Frack Forward – Wyoming’s fed-bucking approach to environmental policy”

http://www.hcn.org/hcn/issues/42.17/frack-forward

On Sept. 15, Wyoming activated new rules requiring energy companies to identify the chemicals they inject underground to break up rocks in order to free trapped oil and gas. Critics suspect that the process — known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — can contaminate groundwater. Evidence has been elusive, though, in part because drilling companies have been allowed to keep their chemical recipes largely secret.

The new rules — the nation’s strictest — were a surprisingly easy sell in Wyoming, where extractive industries almost single-handedly keep state coffers plump and exercise proportional political clout. At Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s behest, the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission unanimously signed off on them in June. Though Halliburton protested some, most in the industry seemed unfazed. At the end of this month, the Associated Press reported that drillers even seemed “eager to comply.”

Anticipating similar moves by President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, which recently increased its scrutiny of fracking, Wyoming wrote the rules as a message to the feds: Your help is not needed here. Federal “meddling” has always irked Wyoming’s leaders. But under Freudenthal, the state has favored a curious strategy for fending off federal regulators: Beat them to the punch with its own cutting-edge environmental policies.

In 2007, with a lawsuit pending over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s decision not to list the greater sage grouse as endangered, Freudenthal ordered state officials, conservationists and industry reps to map the bird’s vital habitat. Within those “core areas,” the state has tightly restricted oil, gas and wind development, all thought to disrupt grouse breeding — a significant improvement over the Bureau of Land Management’s style of developing first and dealing with impacts later.

It’s not a perfect plan — core areas are strategically penciled to exclude the best gas patches, say critics, making places like the Powder River Basin sacrifice zones. And Freudenthal has called the grouse “one of the ugliest, stupidest birds I ever knew.” Still, he’s willing to defend it to protect Wyoming’s natural gas industry. His office estimates that a listing would subject 83 percent of gas producers to new regulations. “What we live on in this state is mineral revenues,” said Freudenthal energy advisor Aaron Clark in 2009, “and we would be subjecting a lot of that to the vagaries of the Endangered Species Act.”

For now, the plan has kept federal regulation at bay. When the Interior Department this year again declined to protect the grouse, officials commended Wyoming’s efforts. And Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has encouraged other states with sagebrush habitat to adopt the core-area model.

Wyoming hopes the feds will be similarly seduced by its new fracking law, as well as pioneering rules developed over the last two years for future carbon capture and sequestration projects. Shannon Anderson, a lawyer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council, a local environmental group, calls the latter “generally good rules.” But they’re less cautious than similar rules drafted by the EPA, which aim to protect drinking water by considering only deep, briny aquifers as potential carbon storage sites. Wyoming’s rules could allow injections in shallow geologic formations, potentially even those that overlie drinking water sources. “They were designed to beat EPA and hopefully get them to follow, rather than dictate, Wyoming’s approach,” Anderson says.

It’s encouraging to see Wyoming advance environmental regulation instead of relax it, as the previous governor did to ease coalbed methane development, and as the Bush-Cheney administration did with fracking. But local environmentalists caution that the new policies aren’t necessarily evidence that Wyoming’s gone green.

“All these rules are baby steps in terms of what we really need to accomplish to address the impacts we have in the state,” Anderson says, adding that Wyoming is in “an already compromised position.” Between 2001 and 2005, sage grouse populations near coalbed methane development in the Powder River Basin declined by 82 percent. Freudenthal refuses to moderate Wyoming’s anti-wolf stance, jeopardizing the state’s chances to manage the animals. And requiring frackers to disclose their chemicals won’t protect groundwater if drillers remain exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act. “The idea is to get these rules in place and stop Congress from passing (comprehensive legislation), which would actually protect public health and safety,” Anderson says.

Imperfect as it may be, Wyoming’s breakaway approach to environmental regulation is gaining favor among some surprising constituencies. Last month, Cathy Woollums, an executive of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a coal-reliant utility behemoth, came to the Wyoming Legislature with an unexpected request: Regulate greenhouse gases. Congressional inaction is creating too much uncertainty in the utility business, she said. And, in any case, MidAmerican would rather answer to Wyoming than the EPA.

End of Article

What do you think? Share your comments

The Ugly Reality of Fracking

In a telephone interview, Jessica Ernst says she’s “still getting used to” being compared to Erin Brockovich (the environmental activist made famous by Julia Robert’s film portrayal ten years ago). The comparison comes easy because the outspoken Ernst, a landowner in the town of Rosebud, Alberta, is one of the few Albertans who have publicly criticized hydraulic fracturing (called “fracking,” in the trade).

Fracking is a technology used by the oil and gas industry to access “unconventional” natural gas deposits trapped in shale, coalbed, and tight-sand formations – potentially at the expense of underground water supplies.

After her well water was contaminated by nearby fracking in 2006, Ernst decided to go public, showing visiting reporters how she could light her tap water on fire, and speaking out about Alberta land owners’ problems with the industry, especially Calgary-based EnCana. EnCana is Canada’s second biggest energy company (after Suncor) and is now also a major player in British Columbia, with hundreds of natural-gas wells in the province.

Ernst, a biologist and environmental consultant to the oil and gas industry, says EnCana “told us ‘we would never fracture near your water.’ But the company fracked into our aquifer in that same year [2004].” By 2005, she says, “My water began dramatically changing, going bad. I was getting horrible burns and rashes from taking a shower, and then my dogs refused to drink the water. That’s when I began to pay attention.” More than fifteen water-wells had gone bad in the little community.

Tests revealed high levels of ethane, methane, and benzene in Ernst’s water. “EnCana told us they use the same gelled [fracking] fluids as in the States.” Fracking has become a huge controversy in the US, with pending legislation that would impact its regulation.

Ernst says she heard from “at least fifty other landowners the first year” she went public, and she continues to get calls. Groundwater contamination from fracking “is pretty widespread” in Alberta, “but they’re trying to keep it hidden.” Canada has no national water standards and conducts little information gathering about groundwater.

Chromium-6 In The Water

Being an activist on behalf of her community is not the only connection Ernst has with Brockovich. Through expensive Freedom of Information requests, Ernst obtained post-fracking water well monitoring data that showed the Alberta Environment people had found hexavalent chromium in Rosebud’s well water. “The government hasn’t told this to people” in the hamlet, says Ernst.

Hexavalent chromium, otherwise known as chromium-6, is the extremely toxic substance Brockovich found in the drinking water in Hinkley, California, which led to a major class action lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric, which finally paid the plaintiffs more than $200 million (€146M) in 2006.

Ernst, who knows the industry well, says chromium-6 “is used in fracking and drilling.” In an odd coincidence, Erin Brockovich herself is currently involved in investigating a mile-long plume of chromium-6 contamination of drinking water – apparently caused by fracking and drilling – in Midland, Texas. In July 2009, Brockovich investigators told the press they have evidence that hydraulic fracturing specialist Schlumberger is to blame. In the continuing case, Brockovich is representing 40 householders whose water has been contaminated.

Natural Gas Burners.

Chris Price/iStockphotos.

Trade Secrets

In 2006, when EnCana was fined $266,000 (€194,000) by the state of Colorado for “failure to protect water bearing formations,” a company spokesman complained to the press that environmentalists had been spreading “misinformation” about fracking and creating a climate of fear about hydraulic fracturing fluids.

The public however, has no way of knowing what’s in the fracking fluids because the chemicals used are considered a “trade secret” – or rather, many trade secrets.

Oil and gas companies like EnCana, Imperial Oil, Suncor, ConocoPhilips, ExxonMobil, etc., generally don’t do the hydraulic fracturing themselves, but instead hire specialty services to do it. Each of the big players in the multi-billion-dollar fracking industry – Halliburton, Calfrac Well Services, Schlumberger, BJ Services (all of which operate in Western Canada) – has its own recipe for fracking fluids, of which they are fiercely protective. The precise nature and concentrations of the chemicals in these “proprietary fluids” are not even fully known to government regulatory agencies.

By examining drillers’ patent applications and government worker health and safety records, some environmentalists and regulators in the US have been able to piece together a list of some of the fracking fluid ingredients. These include potentially toxic substances such as diesel fuel (which contains benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, and napththalene), 2-butoxyethanol, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, methanol, formaldehyde, ethylene, glycol, glycol ethers, hydrocholoric acid, and sodium hydroxide.

US Fracking Controversy

As a sign of just how controversial hydraulic fracturing has become in the US, Exxon Mobil Corp.’s US$29 billion (€21.5b) takeover of fracking specialist XTO Energy Inc. includes a clause stating that any changes to US law that make fracking “illegal or commercially impracticable” would allow the companies to terminate their deal without paying a $900 million (€666) breakup fee.

By 2007, there were 449,000 natural gas wells in 32 American states, an increase of more than 30 percent since 2000, with serious episodes of groundwater contamination near drilling sites documented in seven states.

Companion legislation (S.1215/H.R.2766) – the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act – is currently before Congress to require regulation of hydraulic fracturing under the federal US Safe Drinking Water Act, as well as disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking fluids. New York City Council, the mayor of New York, and a New York Times editorial have all called for a ban on hydraulic fracturing throughout the watershed from which the city obtains its drinking water. That watershed is part of the huge Marcellus shale area being staked out for natural gas drilling and fracking of tens of thousands of wells.

Drilling in Canada

Meanwhile, the BC government has been pushing drilling for unconventional sources of natural gas since at least 2005, offering $50,000 (€36,500) royalty credits for every well drilled before December 2008, and selling oil and gas “sub-surface rights” at a fever pitch.

Both BC and Saskatchewan have been courting the industry with lax or no environmental regulations and promises of low royalties charged to the companies. The Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) predicts a 10 percent increase in drilling in BC in 2010, mostly in the Montney shale field of northeastern BC and the Horn River Basin near Fort Nelson.

In 2006, researchers for West Coast Environmental Law published a report noting that the oil and gas industry had identified at least six areas of BC holding coalbed methane (CBM) natural gas potential: Peace country in the north east; Elk Valley in the southeast; Vancouver Island; the south central interior (around Merritt and Princeton); northwestern BC (around Telkwa and Iskut); and the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Nanaimo Daily News (Nov. 7, 2009) reported that Vancouver Island’s CBM gas deposits – stretching from Chemainus to Parksville, and in the Comox-Campbell River area – are currently not of interest to the industry. Nonetheless, a group called Citizens Concerned About Coalbed Methane-Vancouver Island, has for the past year been pushing for development under its action plan, “Building a Safe Future for CBM.”

In 2008, BC took in a record $2.4 billion (€1.75b) from these leases, which is now its biggest source of royalties’ income.

Fracking is also in high demand in the Bakken natural gas field in southern Saskatchewan, where 1,000 wells have been drilled and fracked over the past five years. PSAC is predicting 1,935 new wells will be drilled there in 2010, and 300 new wells in Manitoba. As a result, Alberta has just announced that it is removing environmental and regulatory “hurdles” in order to entice the natural-gas industry back.

Huge shale developments are also planned for Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Utica shale gas field in Quebec covers an area of 5,000sq.km (1,930sq.m) that runs along the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Quebec City.

The industry is especially interested in the Utica shale because it is close to the New York City market, with export capacity available on TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline system. If the US curtails natural gas development in the Marcellus shale, the Utica could provide gas to the New York market.

Horizontal Drilling Added

The newest technology used by the industry increases the scope of fracking. By drilling horizontal wells, where the drill bit is steered along a horizontal trajectory, the well bore is exposed to as much of the shale gas reservoir as possible. Combined with hydraulic fracturing, the two technologies create many kilometres of contact area for natural gas to flow into a well, giving the operator a fast payback.

BC energy activist Arthur Caldicott, a frequent contributor to the Watershed Sentinel, explained by email: Fracking “is a nearly-continuous operation in shale gas production. Wells may be fracked up to seventeen times along their entire length.”

Now some geologists are saying that the use of horizontal drilling and fracking for shale production exhausts the well within a mere eight years, with a decline in output of 75 percent in the first year alone. Some are even calling the sector “a speculative bubble.”

In other words, the drilling and fracking endanger the groundwater and deplete rivers and lakes all for a quick payoff to the industry and the province, after which the taxpayer is left with the clean up.

A new report from BC Auditor-General John Doyle states that the BC oil and gas commission must “improve its oversight” of the industry in order to adequately manage the risks of contamination during drilling, production and final site restoration. The minimum cost to restore one well site is $100,000 (€74,000).

While natural gas is touted as a “clean energy” source, the method of extracting this fossil fuel is dirty indeed.

Joyce Nelson is a freelance writer/researcher and the author of five books. Frack Attack was previously published in the Watershed Sentinel, the independent voice for environmental news in British Columbia. Visit: http://www.watershedsentinel.ca/

http://www.greenmuze.com/climate/energy/2562-ugly-reality-of-fracking.html

Fracking – Natural Gas Affects Water Quality

Note from Trinidadco.com: As you read this article you must realize how this same thing is happening here in Las Animas County just west of Trinidad yet very few people are speaking out against this or standing up to protect us.

“In other words, the drilling and fracking endanger the groundwater and deplete rivers and lakes all for a quick payoff to the industry and the province, after which the taxpayer is left with the clean up.”

Fracking – Natural Gas Affects Water Quality

In our phone interview, Jessica Ernst says she’s “still getting used to” being compared to Erin Brockovich (the environmental activist made famous by Julia Robert’s film portrayal ten years ago). The comparison comes easy because the outspoken Ernst, a landowner in the town of Rosebud, Alberta, is one of the few Albertans who have publicly criticized hydraulic fracturing (called “fracking,” in the trade). This is a technology used by the oil and gas industry to access “unconventional” natural gas deposits trapped in shale, coalbed, and tight-sand formations – potentially at the expense of underground water supplies.

After her well water was contaminated by nearby fracking, Ernst decided to go public in 2006, showing visiting reporters how she could light her tap water on fire, and speaking out about Alberta land owners’ problems with the industry, especially Calgary-based EnCana. EnCana is Canada’s second biggest energy company (after Suncor) and is now also a major player in BC, with hundreds of natural-gas wells in the province.

Ernst, a biologist and environmental consultant to the oil and gas industry, says EnCana “told us ‘we would never fracture near your water.’ But the company fracked into our aquifer in that same year [2004].” By 2005, she says, “My water began dramatically changing, going bad. I was getting horrible burns and rashes from taking a shower, and then my dogs refused to drink the water. That’s when I began to pay attention.” At least fifteen water-wells had gone bad in the little community.

Tests revealed high levels of ethane, methane, and benzene in Ernst’s water. “EnCana told us they use the same gelled [fracking] fluids as in the States.” Fracking has become a huge controversy in the US, with pending legislation that would impact its regulation.

Ernst says she heard from “at least fifty other landowners the first year” she went public, and she continues to get calls. Groundwater contamination from fracking “is pretty widespread” in Alberta, “but they’re trying to keep it hidden.”

Canada has no national water standards and conducts little information gathering about groundwater.

Chromium-6 in the Water

Being an activist on behalf of her community is not the only connection Ernst has with Brockovich.  Through expensive Freedom of Information requests, Ernst obtained post-fracking water well monitoring data that showed the Alberta Environment people had found hexavalent chromium in Rosebud’s well water. “The government hasn’t told this to people” in the hamlet, says Ernst.

Hexavalent chromium, otherwise known as chromium-6, is the extremely toxic substance Brockovich found in the drinking water in Hinkley, California, which led to a major class action lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric, which finally paid the plaintiffs more than $200 million in 2006.

Ernst, who knows the industry well, says chromium-6 “is used in fracking and drilling.”

In an odd coincidence, Erin Brockovich herself is currently involved in investigating a mile-long plume of chromium-6 contamination of drinking water – apparently caused by fracking and drilling – in Midland, Texas.  In July 2009, Brockovich investigators told the press they have evidence that hydraulic fracturing specialist Schlumberger is to blame.  In the continuing case, Brockovich is representing 40 householders whose water has been contaminated.

Trade Secrets

In 2006, when EnCana was fined $266,000 by the state of Colorado for “failure to protect water bearing formations,” a company spokesman complained to the press that environmentalists had been spreading “misinformation” about fracking and creating a climate of fear about hydraulic fracturing fluids.

The public however, has no way of knowing what’s in the fracking fluids because the chemicals used are considered a “trade secret” – or rather, many trade secrets.

Oil and gas companies like EnCana, Imperial Oil, Suncor, ConocoPhilips, ExxonMobil, etc. generally don’t do the hydraulic fracturing themselves, but instead hire specialty services to do it.  Each of the big players in the multi-billion-dollar fracking industry – Halliburton, Calfrac Well Services, Schlumberger, BJ Services (all of which operate in Western Canada) – has its own recipe for fracking fluids, of which it is fiercely protective.

The precise nature and concentrations of the chemicals in these “proprietary fluids” are not even fully known to government regulatory agencies.

By examining drillers’ patent applications and government worker health and safety records, some environmentalists and regulators in the US have been able to piece together a list of some of the fracking fluid ingredients.  These include potentially toxic substances such as diesel fuel (which contains benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, and napththalene), 2-butoxyethanol, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, methanol, formaldehyde, ethylene, glycol, glycol ethers, hydrocholoric acid, and sodium hydroxide.

US Fracking Controversy

As a sign of just how controversial hydraulic fracturing has become in the US, Exxon Mobil Corp.’s  December $29 billion takeover of fracking specialist XTO Energy Inc. includes a clause stating that any changes to US law that make fracking “illegal or commercially impracticable” would allow the companies to terminate their deal without paying a $900 million breakup fee.

By 2007, there were 449,000 natural gas wells in 32 US states, an increase of more than 30 percent since 2000, with serious episodes of groundwater contamination near drilling sites documented in seven states.

Companion legislation (S.1215/H.R.2766) – the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act – is currently before Congress to require regulation of hydraulic fracturing under the federal US Safe Drinking Water Act, as well as disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking fluids. New York City Council, the mayor of New York, and a New York Times editorial have all called for a ban on hydraulic fracturing throughout the watershed from which the city obtains its drinking water.

That watershed is part of the huge Marcellus shale area being staked out for natural gas drilling and fracking of tens of thousands of wells.

Drilling in Canada

Meanwhile, the BC government has been pushing drilling for unconventional sources of natural gas since at least 2005, offering $50,000 royalty credits for every well drilled before December 2008, and selling oil and gas “sub-surface rights” at a fever pitch.

Both BC and Saskatchewan have been courting the industry with lax or no environmental regulations and promises of low royalties charged to the companies. The Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) predicts a 10 percent increase in drilling in BC in 2010, mostly in the Montney shale field of northeastern BC and the Horn River Basin near Fort Nelson.

In 2006, researchers for West Coast Environmental Law published a report noting that the oil and gas industry had identified at least six areas of BC holding coalbed methane (CBM) natural gas potential: Peace country in the north east; Elk Valley in the southeast; Vancouver Island; the south central interior (around Merritt and Princeton); northwestern BC (around Telkwa and Iskut); and the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Nanaimo Daily News (Nov. 7, 2009) has reported that Vancouver Island’s CBM gas deposits – stretching from Chemainus to Parksville, and in the Comox-Campbell River area – are currently not of interest to the industry. Nonetheless, a group called Citizens Concerned About Coalbed Methane-Vancouver Island, has for the past year been pushing for development under its action plan, “Building a Safe Future for CBM.”

In 2008, BC took in a record $2.4 billion from these leases, which is now its biggest source of royalties income.

Fracking is also in high demand in the Bakken natural gas field in southern Saskatchewan, where 1,000 wells have been drilled and fracked over the past five years. PSAC is predicting 1,935 new wells will be drilled there in 2010, and 300 new wells in Manitoba.

As a result, Alberta has just announced that it is removing environmental and regulatory “hurdles” in order to entice the natural-gas industry back.

Huge shale developments are also planned for Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Utica shale gas play in Quebec covers an area of 5,000 square kilometres that runs along the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Quebec City.

The industry is especially interested in the Utica shale because it is close to the New York City market, with export capacity available on TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline system. If the US curtails natural gas development in the Marcellus shale, the Utica could provide gas to the New York market.

Horizontal Drilling Added

The newest technology used by the industry increases the scope of fracking. By drilling horizontal wells, where the drill bit is steered along a horizontal trajectory, the well bore is exposed to as much of the shale gas reservoir as possible. Combined with hydraulic fracturing, the two technologies create many kilometres of contact area for natural gas to flow into a well, giving the operator a fast payback.

BC energy activist Arthur Caldicott, a frequent contributor to the Watershed Sentinel, explained by email:  Fracking “is a nearly-continuous operation in shale gas production. Wells may be fracked up to seventeen times along their entire length.”

Now some geologists are saying that the use of horizontal drilling and fracking for shale production exhausts the well within a mere eight years, with a decline in output of 75 percent in the first year alone. Some are even calling the sector “a speculative bubble.”

In other words, the drilling and fracking endanger the groundwater and deplete rivers and lakes all for a quick payoff to the industry and the province, after which the taxpayer is left with the clean up.

A new report from BC Auditor-General John Doyle states that the BC oil and gas commission must “improve its oversight” of the industry in order to adequately manage the risks of contamination during drilling, production and final site restoration. The minimum cost to restore one well site is $100,000.

While natural gas is touted as a “clean energy” source, the method of extracting this fossil fuel is dirty indeed.

***

Joyce Nelson is a freelance writer/researcher and the author of five books

[From Watershed Sentinel, March/April 2010]

Finally the EPA to Study Contamination from Gas Well Fracking

Recently reported in this article by Dow Jones Newswires in Fox News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Thursday launched a study to determine whether a key oil and natural gas production technique called hydraulic fracturing is contaminating water supplies.

While environmentalists are concerned that the process may be causing groundwater contamination and are calling for federal oversight, the industry says there is no proof and it is already adequately regulated.

At issue are new natural-gas reservoirs deep below the earth’s surface that companies such as Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK: 23.76, 0, 0%) and XTO Energy Inc. (XTO: 47.5, 0, 0%) say could multiply the available domestic reserves of a resource that has a fraction of the greenhouse-gas emissions of its fossil fuel cousins, coal and oil.

“Our research will be designed to answer questions about the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on human health and the environment,” said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The study will be conducted through a transparent, peer-reviewed process, with significant stakeholder input,” he said in a statement.

Facing increasing pressure from some Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists, the EPA said in its proposed budget earlier this year it planned to conduct a study of the process.

Previous studies by the EPA–including one review of the process for coalbed methane extraction at much shallower levels–haven’t found hydraulic fracturing carries a risk of water contamination.

Although the states regulate the actual process of hydraulic fracturing–known as fracking–the EPA already regulates the waste-water systems that either re-inject it into reservoirs or send it to waste-treatment facilities.

Last month, Steve Heare, director of the EPA’s Drinking Water Protection Division, said at a conference he hadn’t seen any documented cases that the fracking process was contaminating water supplies.

Bill Kappel, a U.S. Geological Survey official, said at the same conference that contamination of water supplies is more likely to happen as companies process the waste water from hydrofracking. In some instances, municipal water systems that treat the water have reported higher levels of heavy metals and radioactivity.

“Treatment of the [waste] water hasn’t caught up with the hydrofracking technology,” Kappel said.

Although legislation in the House and Senate to bring greater federal oversight of the hydrofracking process hasn’t gained momentum, Heare said even if such proposals are approved, it wouldn’t likely have a dramatic effect on regulation. States would still have the right under the Safe Drinking Water Act to use their own regulatory standards.

If you have had an experiences with your water well being contaminated by hydraulic fracturing or as it is better known as “fracking” please post your comments here and by all means contact the EPA. The problem with fracking is that there are chemicals used by the oil and gas industry that they do not disclose.

In this area of Southern Colorado our ground water is from underground streams, cracks and fizzures, anything underground that will hold water, and if your water well is connected to the source that they are fracking then these chemicals will be in your water well immediately, not next year or 20 years from now. And since our water wells for drinking water are not tested on a daily or frequent basis we could be drinking contaminated water for a long time before we realize it.

The common rebuttal is that the gas wells are not in the same under ground streams as our drinking water but yet there are cases of domestic water wells having their covers blown off and water spewing out of them for a day or two at a time while they were drilling a gas well a quarter of a mile or more away. They are connected in many ways and there is no one protecting us from this contamination, seems that everyone is looking the other way.

It’s time that this stopped and that the extraction of methane gas be done in a more responsible manner so that we are not looking back in a few years and regretting what has happened. We need the Oil and Gas to be good neighbors and to be proactive in protecting those of us that live where they are drilling.

Water is too precious and we all know how precious it is in Colorado yet every day millions of gallons of water just in the western part of Las Animas County are removed from the ground and disposed of. Any idea on how long it will take to replenish that ground water? Not to mention the saline and other high concentrations of dissolved solids and minerals that are being brought to the surface in addition to the chemicals used in fracking.

The consensus should be that you can take the gas that you have the rights too but you can not contaminate or remove our water or put your gas wells in our best or only building sites or have noisy generators running 24/7 next to our homes. It’s already too late for many that live here but it’s time to stop and do what is right. And what is right is not just about how much money can be made as the gas companies “Rape the Oil Field” in our backyard.

Wyoming Ranchers win dispute over CBM discharge water

One of the biggest local concerns from the Methane Gas Industry in Las Animas County is not just the millions of gallons of water that is removed from the ground it is also the quality of this water. Much of this water is “disposed of” on our county roads as “dust control” and it drys up quickly here but that water has salts and maybe large amounts of total dissolved solids that then wash down into those properties bordering the county roads damaging their crops and soil. At least some western states are taking a stand to stop this unfortunately here in Las Animas county only a hand full of residents are fighting this and they need help….check out this story from our neighboring state of Wyoming.

The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council has sided with a ranching couple who contested a discharge permit for coalbed methane water that was issued by the state.

A landowner group says the ruling could have important implications for Wyoming’s large coalbed methane industry, though state officials expressed doubt that Thursday’s vote would have a wide-ranging effect.

The council sided 4-2 with Marge and Bill West, who contested a permit held by Stephens Energy Co. The Wests have lost 100 acres of haymeadow and 200 cottonwood trees because of salt buildup from coalbed methane water flowing across their Powder River Basin property, said the couple’s attorney, Kate Fox, of Cheyenne.

The Wests argued that the state Department of Environmental Quality issued the permit last year using rules since criticized as unscientific by the Environmental Protection Agency and by consultants for the state.

About 170 of the 1,000 or so active water discharge permits in the Powder River Basin have been granted under the rules. Thursday’s ruling in theory could open the way for more permits to be contested.

……

Any appeal from the Environmental Quality Council would go to District Court.

Coalbed methane wells pump water out of saturated coal deposits, depressurizing the groundwater not unlike opening a soda bottle. Methane gas condenses out of the groundwater and is pumped out.

Millions of gallons of byproduct groundwater has been discharged on the surface in the Powder River Basin, which as of 2008 ranked as the nation’s 16th most productive gas area.

Read the entire article here

A Major Victory to Protect our Water in Colorado from Oil and Gas Production

Colorado Court: Coal Bed Methane Producers Need Water Permits

Published at http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2009/2009-04-20-093.asp

DENVER, Colorado, April 20, 2009 (ENS) – The Colorado Supreme Court today ruled that coal bed methane producers must adhere to the same water rules and regulations as other state water users.

In 2005, two ranch families who own water rights in Archuleta and La Plata counties sued the State Engineer, arguing that he was acting illegally by failing to require BP America Production Company to get permits and water court approvals to pump tributary groundwater as part of the company’s coal bed methane production.

Judge Gregory Lyman, the water judge in Durango, agreed and the State Engineer and BP appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

At issue in the appeal was whether the state District Court, Water Division erred in not deferring to the State Engineer’s determination that the removal of water from geologic formations solely to facilitate coalbed methane mining operations is not a “beneficial use” within the State Engineer’s Ground Water Act permitting authority.

Coal bed methane water being discharged (Photo by M. Scott)

For years, coal bed methane producers have been allowed to pump large amounts of groundwater connected to nearby streams, called tributary groundwater, as part of their extraction operations without a water right or approvals from the State Engineer and the water courts.

Coal bed methane is natural gas, 99 percent methane, that is generated and stored in coal seams. Water keeps the coal bed methane in place in underground formations. When groundwater is pumped, the gas is released from the formation and can be captured by producers.

Coal bed methane producers often re-inject most of the water underground, but in different, deeper formations, so the water is not available to other water users or the nearby streams as it was before the methane production.

A State Engineer permit and water court approval are usually required before tributary groundwater can be pumped. These approvals are designed to ensure that the water rights of others, including instream flow rights held by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, are not injured.

Coal bed methane producers have for years argued that they are not using the water but are simply “disposing” of it, therefore they are not subject to these requirements.

Today’s ruling in Vance v. Wolfe affirms Judge Lyman’s decision. The Colorado Supreme Court found that the extraction of tributary groundwater for coal bed methane production is a “beneficial use” of water that is subject to water rights administration and approvals by the water courts.

“This is a victory for both ranchers and our streams,” said Mely Whiting, an attorney with the conservation group Trout Unlimited, which participated in the appeal in support of the ranchers.

“The decision sends a strong message that just because you are part of the oil and gas industry, you are not above and beyond Colorado water laws,” she said.

Whiting gave credit for the ruling to the Vance and Fitzgerald families who brought the suit as well as to attorney Sarah Klahn of the Denver law firm of White & Jankowski, which specializes in natural resources law. “They did the lion’s share of work, and they deserve congratulations for this important achievement,” she said.

“The court made a sound ruling based on a common sense reading of Colorado law,” said Bart Miller, with Western Resource Advocates, which participated by filing a “friend of the court” brief on the appeal.

“The decision implicitly recognizes the scarcity and value of water in Colorado,” he said. “It’s an important decision.”

Phase 2 of Colorado’s Statewide Water Supply Initiative estimates that by 2050, Colorado may need an additional 1.7 million acre-feet of water. Without new water supplies, it is estimated that 77 percent of agriculture will be dried up.

“Produced water and disposal should not be in the same sentence,” says Pat O’Toole, a rancher in Savery, Wyoming, a state that is rich in coal bed methane. “Water is much too valuable a commodity. We need to embrace the reality that CBM development will produce water and that water can be cleaned at reasonable cost.”

Published in Enviromental News Service