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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Will Western PA Experience Earthquakes Due To Marcellus Shale Exploration?

From www.washingtonsblog.com

Are those of us living in Western Pennsylvania ready for earthquakes as a result of Tom Corrupt-bett's Marcellus Shale drilling and Fracking free-for-all? Are we ready for cracked infrastructures? Are we ready for our water supplies being harmed because of all the water taken from them to be used in the drilling and Fracking process? 

Since PA Governor Tom Corrupt-bett continues to take the rights away from local governments to set the rules through ordinance regulations, communities are now, and will continue to be, more at risk of harm. This is why local governing representatives MUST lobby their state government representatives to do much more to protect local government control. Local governments MUST be allowed to BAN drilling and Fracking in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of their infrastructure, resources, and more!!!

We must all realize that the research stating that drilling and Fracking causes earthquakes is still unfolding the truth. Here in Western PA we are expected to see thousands of wells drilled in virtually a small area. We, therefore, will be the testing ground for unwinding the theories surrounding manmade earthquakes and the dangers they will create, since we are the epicenter of this natural gas.


It's Official: Human Activity Can Cause Earthquakes

Human Activity Is Officially Acknowledged to Cause Earthquakes 

The United States Geological Survey is America's official expert on earthquakes. It's the Federal agency charged with monitoring, reporting on, researching and stressing preparedness for earthquakes. 
So I was surprised to read the following statement by the USGS:
Earthquakes induced by human activity have been documented in a few locations in the United States, Japan, and Canada. The cause was injection of fluids into deep wells for waste disposal and secondary recovery of oil, and the use of reservoirs for water supplies. Most of these earthquakes were minor. The largest and most widely known resulted from fluid injection at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal near Denver, Colorado. In 1967, an earthquake of magnitude 5.5 followed a series of smaller earthquakes. Injection had been discontinued at the site in the previous year once the link between the fluid injection and the earlier series of earthquakes was established. (Nicholson, Craig and Wesson, R.L., 1990, Earthquake Hazard Associated with Deep Well Injection--A Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1951, 74 p.)

Injection Wells Can Induce Earthquakes 

The New York Times noted in February:
Researchers with the Arkansas Geological Survey say that while there is no discernible link between earthquakes and gas production, there is “strong temporal and spatial” evidence for a relationship between these quakes and the injection wells.
For decades, scientists have been researching induced seismicity, or how human activity can cause earthquakes. Such a link gained attention in the early 1960s, when hundreds of quakes were recorded in Colorado a few years after the Army began injecting fluid into a disposal well near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory points out:
Induced seismicity [i.e. earthquakes] in oil and gas production has been observed ever since the 1930s, i.e., ever since large scale extraction of fluids occurred. The most famous early instance was in Wilmington, California, where the oil production triggered a series of damaging earthquakes. In this instance the cause of the seismicity was traced to subsidence due to rapid extraction of oil without replacement of fluids. 
In the last decade a number of examples on earthquake activity related tooil and gas production as well as injection of liquids under high pressure have been observed, although not with as serious consequences as for Wilmington. Almost all induced seismicity associated with petroleum extraction can be traced to either fluid injection or extraction. In some recent cases injection of produced water (excess water extracted during oil and gas extraction) has produce significant seismic activity. Examples are in Colorado and Texas where gas and oil production yield large volumes of water that must be put back underground. In some cases the water cannot be put back exactly where it was produced and over pressurization of the water causes induced seismicity. 
Lawrence Berkeley Lab provides details
Fluid pressures play a key role in causing seismicity. Explained in simple terms, fluids can play a major role in controlling the pressures that are acting on the faults. The fluid pressure in the pores and fractures of the rocks is called the pore pressure.


Injecting fluids into the subsurface is one way of increasing the pore pressure and thus allowing the faults and fractures to “fail” more easily, thus inducing an earthquake.


That is why in many cases induced seismicity is caused by injecting fluid into the subsurface or by extracting fluids at a rate that causes subsidence and/or slippage along planes of weakness in the earth. Figure 2 is an example of induced seismicity being caused by water injection. Figure 2 is a cross section of the earth showing the location of the earthquakes (green dots), the locations of injection wells (thick blue lines) and production wells (thin lines, these wells extract fluid). Note the large number of events associated with the injection wells.
Figure 2 Example of injection related seismicity; note the close correlation between water injection wells and the location of the seismicity
Figure 2. Example of injection related seismicity; note the close correlation between water injection wells and the location of the seismicity.
For additional scientific documentation, see thisthisthisthisthis, this and this

"Fracking" Can Cause Earthquakes 

Lawrence Berkeley Lab also points out that hydrofracturing (or "fracking" for short) can cause earthquakes:
Another type of induced seismicity is that which is associated with “hydrofracturing”. Hydrofracturing is done by injecting fluid into the subsurface to create distinct fractures in order to link existing fractures together in order to create permeability in the subsurface. This is done to extract in situ fluids (such as oil and gas). Hydrofracturing is distinct from many types of shear induced seismicity because hydrofracturing is by definition only created when the forces applied create a type of fracture called a tensile fracture, creating a “driven” fracture. Shear failure has been observed associated with hydrofracturing operations, as the fluid leaks off into existing fractures, but due to the very high frequency nature of tensile failure ( seismic source at the crack tip only) only the associated shear failure is observed by microseismic monitoring . However, hydofracturing is such a small perturbation it is rarely, if ever, a hazard when it is used to enhance permeability in oil and gas or other types of fluid extraction activities. To our knowledge hydrofracturing to intentionally create permeability rarely creates unwanted induced seismicity large enough to be detected on the surface even with very sensitive sensors, let alone be a hazard or an annoyance. In fact the very small seismic shear events created from the shear failure associated with the hydrofracture process are used to map the location of the induced permeability and as management toll to optimize fluid production. If not for the very small shear events it would be much more difficult to understand the effect of hydrofracturing because the seismic energy created from the “main fract” is to low to be detected, even from he most sensitive instruments at the surface of the earth Figure 3 is an example of how seismicity is used to map these hydrofractures. Last but not least another reason that the seismic risk is so low associated with hydrofracture operations in that they are of relatively low volume and short durations ( hours or days at the very most) compared to month and years for other type of fluid injections described above.
Figure 3. Cross section through a stimulation well showing six different stages of hydrofracture stimulation and the associated seismicity ( magnitude -1.0 to -2.5) during the entire hydrofracture (less than 24 hours) Warpinski et al 2005.
Figure 3. Cross section through a stimulation well showing six different stages of hydrofracture stimulation and the associated seismicity (magnitude -1.0 to -2.5) during the entire hydrofracture (less than 24 hours) Warpinski et al 2005.
AP reported in February:
Scott Ausbrooks, geohazards supervisor for the Arkansas Geological Survey, said the quakes are part of what is now called the Guy earthquake swarm – a series of mild earthquakes that have been occurring [in Arkansas] periodically since 2009. A similar swarm occurred in the early 1980s when a series of quakes hit Enola, Ark.
Ausbrooks said geologists are still trying to discover the exact cause of the recent seismic activity but have identified two possibilities.
"It could just be a naturally occurring swarm like the Enola swarm, or it could be related to ongoing natural gas exploration in the area," he said.
A major source of natural gas in Arkansas is the Fayetteville Shale, an organically-rich rock formation in north-central Arkansas. Drillers free up the gas by using hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" – injecting pressurized water to create fractures deep in the ground.
Ausbrooks said geologists don't believe the production wells are the problem, but rather the injection wells that are used to dispose of "frack" water when it can no longer be re-used. The wastewater is pressurized and injected into the ground.
Ausbrooks said the earthquakes are occurring in the vicinity of several injection wells.
[Police Chief Dave Martini] the earthquakes started increasing in frequency over the past week and that the disposal well has seen an increase in use recently.

Websites Ask Whether Fracking Caused the Virgina Quake

Front-page articles at Daily KosOpEdNews, and RT ask whether the August 23rd Virginia earthquake was induced by fracking. 
I have no idea whether or not this is true, and have been too busy to look at the supposed evidence of drilling near the epicenter of the earthquake.
But given that some human activity is officially acknowledged to be able to induce earthquakes, it's worth asking these types of questions.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Halliburton CEO Drinks Fracking Fluid

Why don't these execs drink from Fracking fluid used today? What a dog and pony show.
From Huffpo.

DENVER -- An energy company executive's sip of fracking fluid at an industry conference this month has been called a demonstration by some and a stunt by others, but it's bringing attention to new recipes for hydraulic fracturing fluids that in the past have contained chemicals commonly used for antifreeze or bleaching hair.
During a keynote lunch speech at the conference presented by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Halliburton Co. CEO Dave Lesar talked about addressing public concerns about hydraulic fracturing, which extracts natural gas by blasting a mix of water, chemicals and sand underground.
He raised a container of Halliburton's new fracking fluid made from materials sourced from the food industry, then called up a fellow executive to demonstrate how safe it was by drinking it, according to two attendees.
The executive mocked reluctance, then took a swig.
What he drank was apparently CleanStim, which when Halliburton announced it in November was undergoing field trials. A Halliburton spokeswoman didn't respond to a question asking how that executive is doing now, or who he is. Instead, she referred a reporter to a web page on CleanStim. The Houston company, which has operations in about 80 countries, has said the product shouldn't be considered edible.
"I thought if this stuff was so benign, why wouldn't the CEO drink it himself? That frankly was my first thought," said Environmental Defense Fund's Mark Brownstein, who saw the demonstration. "My second thought, more seriously, is on the one hand, I'm pleased to see Halliburton is taking steps to remove toxic chemicals from hydraulic fracturing fluid. I wonder why if they have this technology why it wouldn't become standard practice.
"I also do in some ways think the stunt is very much indicative of the problem the industry has in assuring the public that they are in fact taking public concerns seriously," Brownstein said. "Because quite honestly, a homeowner in Pennsylvania doesn't have the option of having an underling drink his water. He has to do it himself."
Roughly 90 percent of wells in the U.S. are fracked, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Each component of fracking fluid does something different, such as killing bacteria or preventing corrosion. As fracturing evolves, engineers have found other substances besides synthetic chemicals to perform those functions, said Colorado State University environmental engineering professor Ken Carlson, who also attended the conference.
"The thing I took away is the industry is stepping up to plate and taking these concerns seriously," Carlson said. "Halliburton is showing they can get the same economic benefits or close to that by putting a little effort into reformulating the fluids."
Companies have resisted disclosing exact recipes for fracking fluid for competitive reasons, and those who voluntarily post disclosures on a public online registry called FracFocus can exclude some chemicals. Halliburton's website lists CleanStim's ingredients as enzyme, exthoxylated sugar-based fatty acid ester, inorganic and organic acids, inorganic salt, maltodextrin, organic ester, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, polysaccharide polymer and sulfonated alcohol.
Brownstein said using ingredients from the food industry won't necessarily make a fracking fluid safe for drinking water. "Salt is a food-grade ingredient, but if you have too much salt in your well water, your well water is not usable," Brownstein said.
Still Carlson said it was a good sign that Halliburton and others have introduced fracking fluids that they say are safer for the environment for reasons such as using biodegradable ingredients or allowing for less water use.

Monday, August 22, 2011

from www.washingtonsblog.com

BP Gulf Oil Spill: Leaking Again?

noted on Thursday that billion dollar verdict winner trial attorney Stuart Smith alleges that his contacts say BP's Deepwater Horizon oil well is leaking again. 

Smith notes today: 
Hours after we posted our initial report on Wednesday, the Associated Press in London ran a story that BP admitted to “investigating a new sheen in the Gulf of Mexico,” but that it was not near “any existing BP operations.”
Only hours after the AP story hit, the Times-Picayune out of New Orleans (my home town) ran an article stating BP’s outright denial. From Mark Schleifstein’s article (posted Aug. 18 at 1:47 p.m.):
No oil is leaking from the capped Macondo well that blew out last year, destroying the Deepwater Horizon floating platform and killing 11 workers, a BP spokesman said Thursday.
BP also has not hired any vessels to clean up any oil in that area of the Gulf of Mexico, said spokesman Daren Beaudo.
A report in a blog written by trial lawyer Stuart Smith of New Orleans on Wednesday claimed that the well was leaking and that BP had hired 40 boats to clean the mess.
A flurry of allegations and denials ensued. “None of this is true,” BP said in a statement. “We inspected our operations and our assets and didn’t find anything,” said BP spokesman Daren Beaudo.
We knew better than to expect any sort of candid response from BP or the Coast Guard who after all denied oil was leaking for a full week after the DH rig sank last year, so we were very pleased when Bonny Schumaker from the California-based nonprofit On Wings of Care (see link to website below) agreed to do a flyover. She took a four-hour flight out to the Deepwater Horizon site yesterday (Aug. 19) with Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) photographers Jonathan Henderson and Tarik Zawia.
They spotted oil – lots of it. So we now have damning photos of oil in the water at the “exact location” of the Deepwater Horizon. Clearly, BP has some explaining to do.
Photos from Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network. The caption for the three photos reads: Oily substance on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi Canyon Block 252. While there were no boats or other structures in the vicinity today, rainbow and brown tinted formations could be seen covering the area where BP’s Macondo well is located and the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded and sank in April of 2010. The coordinates are N28 44.20, 88 23.23W.
We will be sampling oil from the scene as soon as possible to establish a chemical fingerprint, which will determine the oil’s origin.
Gulf Restoration Network reports:
First, we spotted oil on the surface above the exact location where the Deepwater Horizon and Macondo well are located, in Mississippi Canyon Block 252. Take a look at the captions in the photos for coordinates. Obviously, from the air I cannot confirm that the oil is BP’s and from there Macondo well. I can only report that I spotted oil above that location. I reported this to the National Response Center and had a lengthy conversation with a Coast Guard official. Notice that the oil seems to be clustered in round formations. I have no idea why or how this could happen and neither could the USGC official. The formations are clearly rainbow in color and in some cases have also a brownish tint. Take a look:
And see these videos and photos from Wings of Care.

Giant Oil Production Ship Back In Area

Also suspicious, a giant oil production ship is back at the scene of the oil spill.
Smith reports:
The Helix Producer I, a massive oil production vessel, is back in the area where the Deepwater Horizon rig sank to the sea floor – roughly 170 miles northeast of where BP officially lists its location. Perhaps you recall that the Helix, with the capacity to process 45,000 barrels of oil a day, helped capture oil spewing from the runaway Macondo Well last summer. 
So why is there an enormous oil production vessel currently parked atop the Macondo field? What’s it doing if there’s no leak and no oil?
On Wings of Care pilot Bonny Schumaker and two photographers, Jonathan Henderson and Tarik Zawia, from the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) caught theHelix on film Friday (Aug. 19). From Schumaker’s Aug. 19 post-flight report (see link to full report below):
Heading toward the DH site (9111), we came across an interesting vessel known as “Helix”, and noted that their submerged equipment must have been about as deep as they could put it, for their cable was run out to the max. If you look at our gps map, the waypoint position for the “Helix” was number 9114 in the screen shot of our gps map below. (The gps file will tell you that the photo was taken from about 600′ above the water at lat/longs 28° 42.160′N, -088° 35.994′W.)

Photo credit to On Wings of Care and Jonathan Henderson at the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN).
According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, the Helix Producer I “is a ship-shaped monohull floating production and offloading vessel. …It has no storage capability.” At 530 feet long and 95 feet wide, it’s hard to hide – even in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.
As of Aug. 17 (the most recent location date), MarineTraffic.com has the Helixstationary at Lat/Lon: 27.730009/-91.108063; Speed/Course: 0 kn/276°. Those coordinates put it roughly 170 miles southwest of where Bonny Schumaker and her team spotted it Aug. 19 – atop the Macondo field very close to where one of the relief wells was drilled by the vessel Development Driller III.
In the absence of any clue from BP or the Coast Guard, here are a few possible tasks the Helix could be performing:
1. Collecting oil from the sea floor and pumping it into barges at the surface;
2. Working to remotely seal a leak on the sea floor; or
3. Looking for the source of a leak with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).
Our sources tell us, the Helix is most likely searching for the source of a leak with ROVs. That would explain why the submergence cable was run out nearly to the bare spool (as you can see in the photos). It seems plausible that the vessel is looking for the source of the oil that’s surfacing nearby.
Schumaker makes other curious observations in her report that further suggest something’s amiss:
We also saw some very strange expanses of greenish linear plumes, each maybe 300 feet wide and separated from the next one by about that same distance, running south to north (roughly). …We also came across an unusual ‘string’ of buoys, apparently anchored; some sort of sounding measurements? As we reached the DH site, we began to see numerous collections and lines of those strange-looking globules in what was otherwise smooth blue water (waypoints 9114-9117).


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It is time that each and every board of supervisors, and/or commissioners in Pennsylvania DEMAND that Marcellus Shale drillers and Frackers become seriously regulated and pass a law that communities can write ordinances and laws that allow them to control these gas predators.

Hey Representative T. Mark Mustio and John Pippy, of the Moon Township district, it is time that YOU BOTH demand such controls.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corrupt-bett (Corbett) has handed over Western Pennsylvania to these drilling predators.

Range Resources is a predator!!! They are evil and dangerous.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A major Marcellus Shale drilling company is challenging a southwestern Pennsylvania township’s ordinance to regulate oil and gas well development.
Range Resources-Appalachia filed the notice challenging the validity of the ordinance approved last year by South Fayette Township, a Pittsburgh suburb.
The ordinance requires drillers to obtain a land operations permit for each well, and creates buffers around schools, hospitals and certain types of businesses.
Range Resources contends the ordinance is illegal because it says a state law that regulates drilling pre-empts and supersedes it.
As such, Range Resources says it is being “deprived of its legal right to develop its oil and natural gas property interests” on about 4,000 acres it has leased in the township.
The township’s manager did not immediately return a call and e-mail for comment.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Big, new pipelines on tap for state
Monday, August 15, 2011
HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania and the Marcellus Shale natural gas reservoir are emerging as a key focus of natural gas pipeline operators, as the increasing gas flow spurs projects to bring it to customers in the northeastern United States and possibly Canada.

More than half of the interstate natural-gas pipeline projects proposed to federal energy regulators since the beginning of 2010 involve Pennsylvania -- at a cost estimated at more than $2 billion.

That means hundreds of new miles of pipeline as part of a larger, traditional cross-country network that already extends through Pennsylvania and its neighboring states, as well as dozens of new or upgraded compression stations to force more gas through the buried pipes.

The projects are already employing thousands of contract workers and bringing work to steel mills, welders, gravel quarries and landscapers. At the same time, they are generating concerns about air and water pollution and eminent domain issues.

» A website for ongoing coverage, resources, comments and more.

Combined, more than a dozen projects proposed or already under construction would have the capacity to move an additional 4 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day -- one-third of what analysts for Colorado-based Bentek Energy say is the average daily demand in the northeastern United States.
"A lot of those projects are really designed to move the new volumes out of the Marcellus to your more traditional, historic pipelines that have served the Northeast markets for the last 30 or 40 years," said Bentek's manager of energy analysis, Anthony Scott.

For now, Bentek said about 3 billion cubic feet (bcf) per day of gas is flowing from the Marcellus Shale, the nation's largest-known natural gas reservoir. Production is rising quickly as crews busily drill more wells, and the flow should easily reach 7 bcf or 8 bcf per day in the next five years, Scott said.

But the exploration companies need to find takers for the gas, and Bentek analysts say more pipeline capacity is needed if the Marcellus Shale gas is going to ease price spikes at important New York City and Boston-area hubs during the coldest winter stretches.

Where the gas is already flowing into interstate pipelines, largely in southwestern and northeastern Pennsylvania, it is displacing pricier gas from more distant sources including Canada, the Gulf Coast, Rocky Mountains or terminals that accept liquid natural gas shipments from overseas, Bentek analysts said.

Similar pipeline construction followed earlier growth in shale gas production in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, said Jeffrey Wright, director of the Office of Energy Projects at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

"You test it, you produce it and you develop it, and when things look promising, you have to have a way to get the gas to market, and that's when the pipeline proposals start coming in," Wright said.

The expansions come amid scrutiny after several high-profile pipeline accidents around the country and the need for Congress to re-authorize the last significant pipeline safety rules, adopted in 2006.

Armed with billions of dollars and a new technique for tapping gas from thick rock -- hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, combined with horizontal drilling deep underground -- major drilling companies began descending on Pennsylvania in earnest in 2008 to exploit the Marcellus Shale.

The formation lies primarily beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio. Pennsylvania is the center of activity, with more than 3,000 wells drilled in the past three years and thousands more planned in coming years.

Cathy Landry, spokeswoman for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, said pipeline construction historically has been driven by demand from gas utilities or power plant owners. With the growth in gas production, partly from the Marcellus Shale and other shale regions now being explored, it's the exploration companies that are pressing for pipelines.

"It's the producers who want to get their gas to market," she said.

One of the largest projects, a $700 million expansion of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.'s 300 pipeline, is already under construction, employing 2,100 surveyors, inspectors and construction workers, according to the company. It received federal approval last year to lay approximately 127 miles of 30-inch pipeline -- along the existing 300 pipeline where possible -- through northern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey, as well as the installation of two new compressor stations and upgrades of seven others.

To connect to the larger, interstate pipelines, other companies are moving forward in Pennsylvania on what is expected to be thousands of miles of smaller pipelines to ferry gas from producing well sites. Those gathering pipelines require various federal, state or local permits to cross wetlands, streams and roads, but not federal energy regulators' approval.

The region is already crisscrossed by major interstate pipelines, but it isn't accustomed to such heavy drilling or drilling-related activity. And while the industry is credited with bringing new life to local contractors, the pipeline construction at times is generating worries over how it will affect air, waterways and land.

Jan Jarrett of the Harrisburg-based environmental group PennFuture, said she is concerned about the impact of the pipeline construction on forests, wetlands and the countless high-quality cold water trout streams that spider-web northern Pennsylvania.

Joe Osborne of the Pittsburgh-based Group Against Smog and Pollution, or GASP, said there are concerns about air pollution from the growing number of compressor stations that pump gas through pipelines. He said the stations are sources of carbon monoxide and two other pollutants -- nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds -- that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that can trigger or worsen breathing problems.
"In the Northeast, we already struggle to meet the federal health-based ozone standards," Mr. Osborne said.

In many cases, new pipeline would be buried along existing pipelines in the national network.
At least one new interstate project, the MARC I line proposed by a subsidiary of Kansas City, Mo.-based Inergy LP, is getting pushback from some residents and environmental groups in northern Pennsylvania's rural Endless Mountains region.

The EPA even weighed in, writing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to express concerns about the potential environmental impact of the line and question whether it is even necessary.
The line, which would travel into New York, would pose the threat of pollution to 111 sensitive streams and water bodies and split 39 miles of undeveloped forest and farm land in an area that supports a robust ecosystem, high quality of life and recreation, the EPA said.

But federal regulators have found the pipeline would have "no significant impact" on the environment and recommended that it be allowed to go forward. Bill Moler, president of Inergy's midstream division, said in a statement last month the company is confident that any environmental impact has been identified and either avoided or remedied in its plans.

Certification by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gives a company the right to seek court approval to take property by eminent domain -- a worry for some property owners in the proposed path of the MARC 1 whose families have owned the land for generations, said state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Lycoming. Before that happens, Mr. Mirabito said, those property owners should get the satisfaction of a stronger environmental analysis of the project.
Read more: http://post-gazette.com/pg/11227/1167397-503-0.stm#ixzz1V5uk17Si

Corbett quietly turning off the lights on renewable energy
Sunday, August 14, 2011
The Corbett administration is de-emphasizing renewable energy and energy conservation, eliminating programs created by previous Democratic and Republican administrations as it focuses on natural gas energy from booming Marcellus Shale.

Quietly but systematically, the administration has all but shut down the state Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Energy and Technology Deployment -- the state's primary energy office -- and removed directors and reassigned staff in the Office of Energy Management in the Department of General Services and the Governor's Green Government Council.

It has also forbidden state executive agencies from signing contracts that support clean energy supply.

The administration says merely that any changes are part of a new approach of Gov. Tom Corbett's energy executive, Patrick Henderson, who has been overseeing development of the administration's Marcellus Shale gas policy. But environmental organizations and former DEP officials and staffers say the dismantling of successful programs promoting renewable and sustainable

» A website for ongoing coverage, resources, comments and more.

The changes will put more than 100,000 "green jobs" in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries at risk, according to Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future -- PennFuture -- a statewide environmental organization that last week launched a campaign to protect and restore programs and jobs it says are under attack.

"In the past 12 years, Pennsylvania has gone from having virtually no clean energy jobs to employing more than 106,000 Pennsylvanians in the clean energy industry, despite the national recession," said Jan Jarrett, president and chief executive officer of Penn Future. "These program cuts and legislative attacks threaten to kill those good, family-sustaining jobs."

According to PennFuture and DEP sources, the DEP's Office of Energy and Technology Deployment -- which had oversight of the state Energy Savings Law and the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, administered several clean energy grant programs, provided technical assistance to renewable energy companies and housed the state's climate change office -- has been downsized and is without a director at the Deputy Secretary level. The climate program has had its staff reduced from four to one.

One former DEP employee, who asked that he not be named because he continues to work on energy issues in Harrisburg, said of the Energy Office, "it's being taken apart piece-by-piece and the pieces are being thrown away."

The Green Government Council, created under Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, was established to help state agencies adopt environmentally sustainable operations. Its staff and program responsibilities have been "gutted," the employee said, and it continues to exist primarily to provide federally mandated tracking and performance reports for a number of federal energy programs.

The administration's prohibition against sustainable and alternative energy purchases reverses a policy that by the beginning of this year, had the state buying 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, according to PennFuture, and made it "a national leader in the development of the clean energy economy."

The Office of Energy Management has seen its director fired, its staff reassigned and, according to PennFuture, has been moved from the Department of General Services to the Bureau of Public Works. It administered the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act, which helps school districts and local governments invest in energy conservation and efficiency programs and conservation.

State Rep. William Adolph, a Delaware County Republican who authored the Energy Savings Act, is in discussions with the governor's office about how the program will be administered, said Mike Stoll, a spokesman for Mr. Adolph.

"We're still working with the administration to understand its position on the program," Mr. Stoll said. "It's saying this is part of a consolidation of programs but that doesn't change the requirements of the act."
The governor's office referred all questions about energy program and policy changes to Katy Gresh, a DEP spokeswoman, but she didn't directly respond to questions requesting specific information about program, policy and staffing changes. She did issue a general statement saying the department "continues to be the primary commonwealth agency for energy programs, energy emergency response and assurance, as well as alternative transportation fuel programs, and climate change," and that it is working closely with Mr. Henderson.

Ms. Gresh said eliminating the sustainable energy purchase program will save the state nearly $1 million. She cited two programs -- a $1 million grant program for small business energy efficiency and a still-in-development energy efficiency program that would use $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy -- as examples of the state's continued commitment to energy conservation.

Christina Simeone, director of PennFuture's Energy Center and formerly the special assistant for energy and climate at DEP, said the policy changes and staffing reductions are crippling the department.
"I have concerns about whether the remaining staff of every office can handle the required workloads," Ms. Simeone said. "The programs and staff have been marginalized so much."

John Hanger, DEP secretary under former Gov. Ed Rendell, said it would be a mistake for the state to focus exclusively on natural gas.

"The changes we've seen are viewed as downgrading alternative energy programs, and I can understand how people can come to that conclusion," Mr. Hanger said. "I hope that's not the case, but the [administration's] actions could be interpreted as backing away for placing less emphasis on alternative energy."

It's very important that the state welcome all types of energy development, including wind, solar and biofuels and not become exclusively focused on Marcellus Shale gas, Mr. Hanger said Friday, while attending the dedication of 32 wind turbines in Cambria County. The 75-megawatt facility, built by Everpower, a New York City-based company with an office in Pittsburgh, will produce enough power to supply 32,000 homes and increases the amount of wind electricity produced in the state by 10 percent.

"It's important to have government programs that can help move forward alternative energy and it's important that state government be a model for the private sector, especially when doing so can save taxpayers money," Mr. Hanger said, referring to a DEP program promoting energy efficiency in government buildings.

Pennsylvania is not the only state reassessing or reducing sustainable energy, energy conservation and renewables portfolio standards policy. Governors and legislators have voiced similar concerns in Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, according to the Pew Research Center.

Ms. Simeone said changes in policy priorities could be expected because the 2010 election resulted in widespread state government leadership changes, but it doesn't make sense to pull support from renewable and sustainable energy sources when the rest of the world is turning toward them.

"Around the world countries are realizing there needs to be a mix of fossil and sustainable energy and unless we continue to diversify we will be left in the dust," Ms. Simeone said. "We should be doing everything we can to create jobs in those areas and embrace those opportunities. But what we're doing just doesn't make sense."
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11226/1167245-454.stm#ixzz1V5wW5SkJ
Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

THURSDAY, AUGUST 11, 2011 from Washingtonsblog.com


There have been a cluster of earthquakes near Fukushima. Just today, there was another6.0 earthquake.
There have been a cluster of meltdowns at Fukushima. For example, Asahi reports today:

A second meltdown likely occurred in the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, a scenario that could hinder the current strategy to end the crisis, a scientist said.
In that meltdown, 10 days after the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, the fuel may have leaked to the surrounding containment vessel, according to a report by Fumiya Tanabe, a former senior researcher at what was then the government-affiliated Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. 
Under Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s road map to deal with its crippled nuclear plant, reducing temperatures at the bottom of the core pressure vessel is one objective for bringing the accident under control. But if the fuel burned through the pressure vessel surrounding the No. 3 reactor and dropped into the containment vessel, that plan would be affected. 
Around 11 a.m. on March 14, the reactor building was hit by a large hydrogen explosion that was likely caused by a core meltdown, which led to fuel falling to the bottom of the pressure vessel.
Tanabe also estimates that the second meltdown led to the release of large amounts of radioactive materials, and that much of the fuel fell through the pressure vessel to the surrounding containment vessel. 
Kunihisa Soda, a former commissioner at the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan who is a specialist on severe accidents at nuclear plants, said the possibility of a second meltdown could not be ruled out.

Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen notes that there are currently lethal radiation levels at Fukushima, that even higher measurements are to still come, and that the nuclear core has leaked out and is on floor like a pancake working its way down.
NHK notes that scientists have found radiation levels in Japan higher than any found in the contaminated zone in Chernobyl called Red Forest:

And nuclear regulators only thought about worst case scenarios involving a single nuclear plant. They totally ignored the fact that power loss to complexes of nuclear reactors - like the cluster of 6 reactors at Fukushima - could lead to multiple simultaneous meltdowns.
And then there's a cluster of cover ups.
As the New York Times reports:

“From the 12th to the 15th we were in a location with one of the highest levels of radiation,” said Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of Namie, which is about five miles from the nuclear plant. He and thousands from Namie now live in temporary housing in another town, Nihonmatsu. “We are extremely worried about internal exposure to radiation.”
The withholding of information, he said, was akin to “murder.”
In interviews and public statements, some current and former government officials have admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order, some of them said, to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry. As the nuclear plant continues to release radiation, some of which has slipped into the nation’s food supply, public anger is growing at what many here see as an official campaign to play down the scope of the accident and the potential health risks.
Seiki Soramoto, a lawmaker and former nuclear engineer to whom Prime Minister Naoto Kan turned for advice during the crisis, blamed the government for withholding forecasts from the computer system, known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, or Speedi.
“In the end, it was the prime minister’s office that hid the Speedi data,” he said. “Because they didn’t have the knowledge to know what the data meant, and thus they did not know what to say to the public, they thought only of their own safety, and decided it was easier just not to announce it.” 
Meltdowns at three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors went officially unacknowledged for months. In one of the most damning admissions, nuclear regulators said in early June that inspectors had found tellurium 132, which experts call telltale evidence of reactor meltdowns, a day after the tsunami — but did not tell the public for nearly three months. For months after the disaster, the government flip-flopped on the level of radiation permissible on school grounds, causing continuing confusion and anguish about the safety of schoolchildren here in Fukushima. 
The timing of many admissions ... suggested to critics that Japan’s nuclear establishment was coming clean only because it could no longer hide the scope of the accident.
The mayor of Namie also said the government's justifications for withholding information are nonsensical.
And in related news:
It's a clusterfukushima.