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Methane May Leak From 40% of Gas Wells in Parts of Pennsylvania

Study published in PNAS is based on inspection records of 41,000 wells drilled between 2000 and 2012.

Jul 10, 2014

People who live among the fracking fields of Pennsylvania should expect considerable leaking of methane from natural gas wells into the groundwater and atmosphere, according to new research by a professor who has been a consistent critic of the boom in hydraulic fracturing.

A research team led by Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University reached this conclusion after examining state inspection records of more than 41,000 wells drilled from 2000 through 2012 throughout  Pennsylvania.

Because of flaws detected by inspectors in the concrete or casing of the wells, up to 40 percent of the oil and gas wells in some parts of the state may end up leaking methane, they reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Global Warming Interactive: How Hot Will Your City Get?

Type in your town in the box below and find out what summer could feel like if climate change continues unabated.

Jul 10, 2014

If Americans think record-breaking summer heat in recent years has been brutal, just wait several decades.

That's the message of a new project from Climate Central, a nonprofit climate news and research organization based in New Jersey.

According to the research, U.S. cities could be up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than they are today by 2100. St. Paul, Minnesota could feel like Dallas, Texas. Las Vegas could feel like places in Saudi Arabia, with average temperatures of 111 degrees Fahrenheit. Phoenix could feel like Kuwait City, one of the hottest cities in the world, with average temperatures of 114 degrees Fahrenheit.

The scientists' findings are summed up in the report, "1,001 Blistering Future Summers," which includes an interactive tool (below) that allows users to look up projected June-August temperatures in their communities by century's end. 

Texas Sheriff Wants Criminal Charges Filed in Fracking Pollution Case

Hauling company that dumped toxic drilling waste over eight miles of road and never told authorities faces formal enforcement action.

Jul 9, 2014

A Texas waste hauling company that is already facing civil charges for a March accident that spread toxic drilling waste along a rural road could also be facing criminal charges.

Karnes County Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva said he will ask county prosecutors to file a criminal complaint against On Point Services LLC after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas Railroad Commission close their civil cases against the company.  

"We are prepared to ask the district attorney's office to review the case for action," Villanueva said. "There are two different levels of enforcement here: the civil by the state and the criminal by the county."

Ambition Is Key to 2015 Global Climate Accord, but the Lift Is Heavy

Three new studies show that much greater ambition on tackling climate change is needed to reach a climate treaty that staves off disaster.

Jul 8, 2014

The word is "ambition," and it's being voiced this summer with extra urgency by those who worry that the world's leaders won't soon commit themselves to measures strong enough to combat climate change.

In September, heads of state are to gather at a United Nations climate summit to cheer each other on. In December in Peru negotiators are supposed to produce a draft treaty binding the world to decades of steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. And early next year each country is expected to spell out just how deeply it will cut its own global warming pollution. The hope is to have a deal done in Paris by the end of 2015.

It's a daunting timetable. But the way to keep on pace, experts warn, is not to lighten the load.

In Rare Effort, Ohio Scientist to Test Water Before Fracking Soars

Baseline tests offer a template for other fracking communities worried about how drilling might contaminate groundwater supplies.

Jul 8, 2014

As the shale gas boom was making its way into Ohio in 2012, University of Cincinnati scientist Amy Townsend-Small began testing private water wells in Carroll County, the epicenter of the Utica Shale. Her project, which includes samples of more than 100 wells, is one of the few sustained efforts in the nation to evaluate drinking water quality before, during and after gas drilling.

Although it will likely be another year before Townsend-Small releases the results, her work offers a template for other communities worried about how drilling, fracking and producing unconventional natural gas might contaminate groundwater supplies.

Most residents test their water only after they suspect it has been polluted; few have the resources or foresight to conduct baseline testing prior to the drilling.

Exxon's Burst Pipeline Could Restart Within a Year, but Repair Plan May Be Inadequate

Exxon's pipeline stress test plan, obtained by ICN through a FOIA request, may leave crack threats lurking in the 1940s-era pipe, expert says.

Jul 7, 2014

ExxonMobil could restart the northern leg of its Pegasus oil pipeline within a year, but the company's pre-startup tests could leave behind threats large enough to endanger the public, according to a review of Exxon's proposal.

Those details and others are laid out in Exxon's repair plan for the Pegasus northern segment, a document that was submitted to federal pipeline regulators at the end of March. The so-called "integrity verification and remedial work plan" was not publicly released, but InsideClimate News obtained a copy through a public records request.

Exxon plans to conduct stress tests on the pipeline to prove that it can be safely restarted. But the company also said if high-pressure tests trigger a significant number of pipeline failures, it might lower the pressures—a downgrade that could leave dangerous cracks in the pipe. The Pegasus split apart in Mayflower, Ark. in March 2013, and sent a flood of Canadian diluted bitumen into a neighborhood.

What Shale Gas Drilling Looks Like Up Close

13 slides that give a rare glimpse (and explanation) of a complex industrial process that's changing America's energy landscape and people's lives.

Jul 2, 2014

Along with 17 other journalists, I spent much of last week at the Shale Country Institute hosted by the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources, which takes reporters into the field so they can better understand the subjects they're covering.

Coal Mine's Rejection on Global-Warming Grounds Has Major Implications

If the judge's reasoning holds up in other cases it could undermine the rationales for much bigger projects, such as the Keystone XL pipeline.

Jul 1, 2014

A federal judge has blocked a coal project in the wilds of Colorado because federal agencies failed to consider the future global-warming damages from burning fossil fuels.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson's decision halts exploration proposed by Arch Coal that would have bulldozed six miles of roads on 1,700 untrammeled acres of public land.

When the agencies touted the supposed economic benefits of expanded coal mining in the Sunset Roadless Area, Jackson ruled, they should also have considered any global-warming costs.

The decision was a significant judicial endorsement of a policy tool known as the "social cost of carbon," which economists and climate scientist use to put a price in today's dollars on the damages from drought, flood, storm, fire, disease and so forth caused by future global warming due to our emissions from burning fossil fuels.

One Man's Mission to Curb Illegal Dumping of Texas Frack Waste

'If I can make this a better place for people to live, then I have done my job.'

Jul 1, 2014

ALICE, Texas—Deputy Sheriff Hector Zertuche parked his pickup across the road from a gas and oil waste dump and watched through binoculars as a container truck unloaded a mountain of black sludge.

Zertuche, the environmental crimes officer for Jim Wells County, is the law here when it comes to oil and gas waste. The job has fallen to him, he said, because the state's environmental agencies don't effectively police the disposal of the industry's waste. It typically contains benzene and other chemicals found in hydraulic fracturing, along with heavy metals and other contaminants from deep within the earth.

Zertuche draws his authority from the Texas Oil and Gas Waste Haulers Act, which is part of the state Water Code and is rooted in laws enacted almost a century ago during an earlier oil boom. It allows him to issue citations for everything from spilling waste along highways to not having the proper disposal permits.

"I want to make a difference for the people who live here," Zertuche said recently, as he waited outside the 80-acre Eco Mud Disposal facility. "If I can make this a better place for people to live, then I have done my job."

Will Gov. Chris Christie Re-embrace Cap & Trade in Wake of EPA Rule?

The decision over whether to rejoin RGGI could depend on Christie's presidential prospects, and whether he believes they're fading.

Jun 30, 2014

Three years ago New Jersey's governor peremptorily walked out on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, saying the novel cap-and-trade scheme for Northeast power plants wasn't right for his state.

Now Gov. Chris Christie finds himself under pressure from several forces—including the Obama administration and local grassroots groups—to return to RGGI's embrace.

"It's the obvious thing for New Jersey to do," said Seth Kaplan of the Conservation Law Foundation. "All you need to do is pick up the phone and say, 'whoops, sorry!'"

When the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules on June 2 cracking down on carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel plants, the agency suggested that one of the smartest ways for states to meet its targets would be to form multistate emissions markets –or to join existing ones, like RGGI. The flexibility to trade carbon allowances would lower compliance costs, the agency said.