Porter Ranch methane release influences felt in Maryland community

Far reaching effects of methane release in Porter Ranch, LA

Fracking Is Now Banned In This Maryland County




A view of the Potomac River at Hard Bargain Farm in Prince George's County, Maryland.

This past winter saw the largest methane leak in U.S. history, from a natural gas storage facility in California. Many scientists estimate that the methane released in natural gas extraction, transportation, and storage outstrips any climate benefit it has.

Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., voted Tuesday to ban fracking, the controversial oil and gas extraction method that has helped spur a natural gas boom across the country.

“We really are with this vote taking a lead in his state and in the nation,” Councilmember Mary Lehman said at the hearing. “I could not be more proud of this county.”

Maryland passed a temporary moratorium on fracking in 2015, and environmental advocates are hopeful that the Prince George’s County ban will help pave the way for a statewide ban before the moratorium expires in 2017.

“We are in full support of this bill and are very thankful for it,” Prince George’s County resident JoAnn Flynn told the Council. Flynn and her husband own and operate a farm in Brandywine, Maryland, where they use exclusively well water. “This water is connected to the aquifers and water sheds,” Flynn said.

Martha Ainsworth, a local Sierra Club representative, also stressed the importance of protecting local water. “Fracking is dirty,” she said. “It uses large amounts of water; it injects carcinogenic chemicals into the ground.”

We really are with this vote taking a lead in his state and in the nation

During fracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing, chemical-laced water is injected at high pressure into shale, releasing the oil and gas deposits below. The practice has been tied to water degradationhealth issues, andearthquakes. Prince George’s County is expected to be particularly appealing to fracking companies, as one-third of its land mass sits atop the Taylorsville Basin, which is estimated to have more than 500 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. The county also runs along the Potomac and Patuxent rivers in Maryland.

More than 1,000 local residents had petitioned the council to pass a ban.

The ban is not the first of its kind, as local communities across the nation struggle to protect themselves from fracking. New York State has already passed a fracking ban — which also started as a moratorium before towns began restricting the practice at a local level. The New York State courts upheld towns’ rights to do so — but that’s not the case across the country. After a Texas town passed a fracking ban, the state legislature promptly passed legislation outlawing local bans. Oklahoma, which has struggled with a rash of fracking-related earthquakes, also prohibits local bans.

Councilmember Lehman said she hopes that Maryland will go in the direction of New York and that Tuesday’s action will “lay the groundwork for a statewide ban in Maryland.” Montgomery County, a wealthy D.C. suburban county, has already changed its zoning laws in such a way that fracking is essentially prohibited there, as well.

In fact, there is still considerable debate over what, if any, benefit natural gas has. While the fracking boom has helped the country transition off coal-fired power plants, it’s unclear if it has had the desired intention. Natural gas releases only about half the CO2 as coal when burned, but methane, which makes up 80 percent of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas, trapping heat energy about 86 times more effectively than CO2 over a 20-year span.

Unfortunately, gas is difficult to contain. Methane “hot spots” have been found over fracking sites, and this past winter saw the largest methane leak in U.S. history, from a natural gas storage facility in California. Many scientists estimate that the methane released in natural gas extraction, transportation, and storage outstrips any climate benefit it has.



CA Earthquakes and Injection Wells

Oil Industry Caused 2005 Swarm of California Earthquakes: Newly Published Study

By Sharon Kelly • Monday, February 8, 2016 -

Oil and gas wastewater disposal has been tied to a series of earthquakes in California for the first time, in a peer-reviewed study published last Thursday.

A string of quakes ending on Sept. 22, 2005 struck in Kern County near the southern end of California's Central Valley  – and the new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, concluded that the odds that those quakes might have occurred by chance were just 3 percent.

Instead, the researchers honed in on a very specific set of culprits: three wastewater injection wells in the Tejon Oil Field. Between 2001 and 2010, the rate of wastewater injection at that oil field quintupled, and up to 95 percent of that wastewater was sent to just that trio of closely-spaced wells, the scientists noted.

The largest of the earthquakes in the swarm measured magnitude 4.6 on the Richter scale meaning that the quakes were relatively small, unlikely to have done any damage to buildings but significant enough to be felt by those in the area.

To be sure, natural earthquakes have always far outnumbered human-caused quakes in California – but the researchers warned that even if the number of industry-caused quakes is small, wastewater injection could be responsible for larger, more dangerous quakes in the future.

 “Based on our empirical results, injection-induced earthquakes are expected to contribute marginally to the overall seismicity in California,” the researchers from the California Institute of Technology, University of California, University of Southern California and two French universities, wrote. “However, considering the numerous active faults in California, the seismogenic consequences of even a few induced cases can be devastating.”

The researchers also warned that the number of California quakes tied to oilfield activities has been little-studied compared to other parts of the country and that natural quakes may have “masked” the oil industry's impacts.

The findings drew an immediate response from environmental groups.

 “The more oil companies frack and drill, the more wastewater they inject into disposal wells near active faults,”  Shaye Wolf, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement responding to the new research. “That’s an absolutely unacceptable risk in our earthquake-prone state.”

For years, federal scientists have known that wastewater injection has caused earthquakes in Oklahoma – a state that before the shale gas rush experienced just a two or three earthquakes over magnitude 3.0 a year, but in 2015 recorded over 840 quakes that size, some as large as magnitude 5.6 (ten times the size of California's largest human-caused quake).

But the connection to California – which for years was the nation's most earthquake prone state until Oklahoma's sudden surge in quakes knocked California down to second place – is new. And unlike Oklahoma, where the recent tremors have so far caused property damage, California has a long history of natural earthquakes powerful enough to kill.

At the end of January, the U.S. Department of the Interior agreed to stop approving new offshore fracking operations along California's Pacific coast, part of a deal with environmental groups that had sued over the agency's failure to adequately measure the environmental risks, including the potential harm to endangered species, from permitting fracking at sea. Oil platforms have been allowed to legally dump up to 9 billion gallons of wastewater annually into California's ocean.

The drought-plagued state has paradoxically grappled with a flood of oil and gas wastewater in recent years. California's drillers annually pump out billions of barrels of wastewater, much of it laden with corrosive salts or carcinogens like benzene.

And while much of it is disposed of through wastewater injection, water shortages have created a market for drillers to treat that waste and sell it to farms where the food people eat is grown. “In central California’s San Joaquin Valley, Chevron piped almost 8 billion gallons of treated wastewater to almond and pistachio farmers last year,” Bloomberg reported in July. “California Resources Corp., the state’s biggest oil producer, plans to quadruple the water it sells to growers, Chief Executive Officer Todd Stevens told investors at an April conference.”

Even as the industry has experimented with other disposal techniques, wastewater injection has spiked. Since 1995, the amount of wastewater injected underground in California has roughly doubled, from under 20 billion gallons a year to nearly 40 billion.

In 2014, the California State Water Resources Board confirmed that over 3 billion gallons of wastewater tainted with fracking chemicals or other pollutants were injected directly into some of the state's underground water aquifers, which werepreviously clean enough for people to drink from, with the permission of the state's regulators.

The new study suggests that Californians may have more than water contamination to worry about from wastewater injection. The earthquakes struck near Bakersfield, CA – which is just 50 miles from one of the world's most notorious fault lines, the San Andreas fault.

In December, researchers from Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences announced the results of an investigation into human-caused earthquakes in Arkansas, finding that the more water is disposed at a given well, the stronger quakes become.

But, they added, at a certain point, there is likely to be a cap on how powerful an induced earthquake could become.

“The question becomes, Does it taper off at magnitude 3 or a more dangerous magnitude 6.5?” Prof. Jenny Suckale told the Stanford Report, as she described the findings in Arkansas.

The California study comes just two weeks after Canadian authorities shut down fracking at a well in Alberta over a 4.8 magnitude quake that struck near a town called Fox Creek. And in early January, Oklahoma was rattled by two quakes measuring 4.7 and 4.8 – some of the strongest quakes in recent memory.

The new publication drew the attention of federal earthquake authorities who said they found the tie between oilfield wastewater disposal and California's earthquakes credible.

“In California, of course, we have a lot of natural seismicity here, so it's much more difficult” to reliably connect quakes to human activities than in a place like Oklahoma, Art McGarr, US Geological Survey seismologist told the Associated Press. “Nonetheless, I think they made at least a fairly convincing case that these earthquakes were related to fluid injection.”



Todd Shuman Oped in the Ventura County Star Sunday January 3, 2016

CFROG Board Member & Climate Hub activist Todd Shuman

Oped in the Ventura County Star – Sunday January 3, 2016


Effective price for greenhouse gases required



If fossil fuels remain cheap in the near future, nations and corporations will continue to surrender to the temptation to exploit and burn them.

For this reason, the Ventura County Climate Hub (VCCH) believes that a steadily rising global price on fossil-fuel carbon must be established to help turn the climate around.

Carbon pricing serves the national interest by promoting public health, social justice and business reduction of carbon emissions. It encourages investment in clean energy and clean transport.

It will also help dissipate internal pressures to wage war, and it may even help eliminate some of the root causes of terrorism.

The newly-formed Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition aims to help every government establish carbon pricing policies to reduce emissions.

Members of this coalition argue that a carbon tax or fee approach is more effective than a cap-and-trade emissions reduction approach.

Even International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde is now a supporter of a carbon tax approach, stating: “A successful outcome to the Paris climate talks will send a powerful message that nations can work together …. The right carbon price should be at the center of this effort. Indeed, given the slump in energy prices, there has never beena better time to transition to smart, credible, and effective carbon pricing. Policymakers need to price it right, tax it smart, and do it now.”

The number of carbon pricing schemes around the world has almost doubled in three years. Soon, 40 nations will have a price on carbon.

The most politically feasible and effective policy for the U.S. will be the institution of a carbon fee. A carbon fee that also imposes border tariffs on goods from countries that lack an equivalent price on carbon will encourage other nations to institute their own carbon fees.

VCCH supports the 100 percent distribution of fee revenues as a dividend to all households. Economic forecasts show that low- and middle-income households can more than meet their needs with their dividends.

With carbon fee and dividend in place, cleanenergy business products and services become cheaper than fossil-fuel business products and services. The priceconscious purchasing power associated with dividend distribution drives an increasingly green economy. Communities ultimately become more able to implement robust renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

California should also institute a methane fee and dividend policy. This would reduce uncaptured, unburned methane emissions. Methane is a major factor in promoting the rapid warming of our planet.

One ton of atmospheric methane has the same heat-trapping effect as 86 tons of carbon dioxide over a period of 20 years. A fee on all significant sources of methane emission will stimulate development of new technologies that reduce methane emission. Since the livestock and dairy industries are usually the largest sources of methane emission in California, they should not be exempt from this fee.

Finally, the massive natural gas storage well blowout just north of Porter Ranch in the northern San Fernando Valley should trigger a hefty methane emissions fine. Nearly 2.5 million pounds of methane have been released each day from a single blown-out storage well since late October! This release is adversely impacting the health of nearby residents and will further the warming of our planet.

This blowout, along with the fugitive methane emissions from natural gas pipelines, provides compelling evidence for those who oppose proposed natural- gas-fired power plants like the Puente Project in Oxnard.

Natural gas- fired power plants encourage future statewide dependence on a fossil-fuel source that we can now see clearly as both dangerous to our neighbors’ health and dangerous to our planet’s climate.

Todd Shuman, of Camarillo, is chairman of the Methane Working Group for the Ventura County Climate Hub & Board Member CFROG. Send email to vcclimatehub@ gmail. com.


VC Star Oped by CFROG supporter Jan Dietrick Climate Change activist

Climate scores two wins over oil

Jan Dietrick


Tuesday, theclimate won over oil industry opposition to local ballot measures in San Benito and Mendocino counties where citizen farmer coalitions achieved strong voter support to ban fracking. 

The big oil companies prevailed, however, in Santa Barbara County spending $7 million to fight Measure P, a third ballot initiative in California that sought to ban new onshore well permits for three unconventional methods of oil extraction: fracking, acidization and cyclic steaming. 

The oil industry dominated airwaves with fear tactics about Measure P, that it would ban all oil drilling and harm jobs and charitable organizations. Homes would be destroyed from a lack of firefighters. Opponents spent $135 per vote to run this narrative despite it being impossible within the language of the measure. 

Other disturbing news got less airtime. In October, the Central Valley Water Board confirmed that at least nine oil wastewater disposal wells received 3 billion gallons of oil industry waste injection into drinking water aquifers. Wells are now testing high for arsenic, thallium and nitrates — contaminants sometimes found in oil industry wastewater. 

Read more


SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Conservation (DOC) today gave notice of an interim rulemaking package to regulate oil and gas well stimulation.  These “emergency” regulations, mandated by Senate Bill 4, will go to the Office of Administrative Law on December 19 to ensure they are in place by January 1.
“The proposed regulations that will go into effect at the start of 2015 are currently in the public comment process,” DOC Director Mark Nechodom said. “We expect significant public interest and significant changes to those regulations..."

Read more

Ventura seen as quake hot spot

Ventura seen as quake hot spot - Deeper knowledge emerges about threat of downtown fault

By Kit Stolz

Special to The Star

Several new studies funded by the Southern California Earthquake Center have identified Ventura as a hot spot for geological activity, with a fault running directly under downtown that potentially is far more dangerous than previously believed.

If the fault ruptures along its length and involves other faults, it could cause a major earthquake and massive damage, with the possibility of a strong local tsunami, researchers say.

Read more



WASHINGTON -- Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) called for a moratorium on offshore fracking in federal waters on Tuesday, requesting a comprehensive study of its environmental and public health impacts.

“I have been seriously concerned about offshore fracking since recent reports first brought it to light,” Capps said in a statement.

In a related letter to the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency calling for the moratorium and study, Capps cited records detailing at least 15 incidents of fracking in federal waters off California over the last two decades. She wrote that the activities had been approved with "overly broad and outdated plans" that did not adequately account for the risks.

Fracking involves injecting a mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to stimulate the release of fossil fuels. Onshore fracking, which has generated serious environmental debate itself, has been used extensively in the extraction of oil and gas from major shale formations in more than a dozen states.

Less is known about the impact of offshore fracking. "This is a significant data gap, and we need to know what the impacts are before offshore fracking becomes widespread," Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia marine scientist told the Associated Press.

Read more


November 18, 2013 - State regulators released draft rules Friday that, for the first time, would require oil companies to apply for permission to perform hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," the controversial technique increasingly used by petroleum producers,and worry-some to protectors of the environment.

The proposed regulations call for a variety of measures ranging from groundwater monitoring and oil well pressure-testing, to public disclosure of chemicals used in fracking and other forms of well stimulation and notifying neighbors a month before fracking begins.                            


Fracking & Water Scarcity in Ventura County


 ‘fracking’ and water scarcity problems reported by nonpartisan polling for California

This data report is especially important in Ventura County where residents and agriculture rely on ground water resources and not state water. 


Sacramento Bee, September 25, 2013 (excerpted from report, see link below)

Fracking: After months of contentious debate this year and the defection of some key environmental groups, the Legislature passed -- and the governor signed -- a bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. That legislative push mirrors a high level of public concern, with 53 percent of both likely voters and adults oppose increased fracking in California, and a wide margin of respondents called for state regulation of fracking (56 percent of adults, 61 percent of likely voters).

Water: While more than half of Californians believe that water supply will be somewhat or very inadequate to accommodate demand in the next 10 years, respondents split on whether the best solution is building new water storage systems or focusing on water efficiency. Central Valley residents prized efficiency over construction; the opposite held true in the Inland Empire. A plurality of likely voters, 44 percent, favored paying for water projects via state bonds rather than through heightened taxes or user fees. That response takes on additional significance as lawmakers work to craft a twice-deferred water bond measure for the 2014 ballot.

Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/mt/mt-search.cgi?blog_id=41&tag=fracking&limit=20&IncludeBlogs=41#storylink=cpy


Colorado Floodwaters Cover Fracking and Oil Projects

Rebecca Leber


Colorado flooding has not only overwhelmed roads and homes, but also the oil and gas infrastructure stationed in one of the most densely drilled areas in the U.S. Although oil companies have shut down much of their operations in Weld County due to flooding, nearby locals say an unknown amount of chemicals has leaked out and possibly contaminated waters, mixing fracking fluids and oil along with sewage, gasoline, and agriculture pesticides.

“You have 100, if not thousands, of wells underwater right now and we have no idea what those wells are leaking,” East Boulder County United spokesman Cliff Willmeng said Monday. “It’s very clear they are leaking into the floodwaters though.”

Read the rest here.