Category Archives: ecology & environment

Drillers must employ best practices to keep ‘fracking’ boom alive – Houston Chronicle

Drillers must employ best practices to keep ‘fracking’ boom alive – Houston Chronicle.

Drillers must employ best practices to keep ‘fracking’ boom alive

Updated 02:30 p.m., Saturday, January 7, 2012

As recently as 2001, the production of gas naturally occurring deep inside shale rock provided less than 2 percent of total U.S. natural gas production. Today, it is approaching 30 percent. As late as 2007, it was commonly assumed that the United States would be importing large amounts of liquefied natural gas from the Middle East and other areas.

Today, almost overnight in natural-resource years, we are not only self-sufficient in natural gas, we have enough natural gas for the rest of this century on the basis of current demand. This same horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology is now being used in liquids-rich shales to increase oil production. These resource plays are in their infancy and can clearly improve the energy security of the United States.

Nonetheless, the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale rock to release gas trapped deep beneath the Earth’s surface has inspired public fear-mongering, mostly around presumed threats to air quality and water quality. Most of that fear is unfounded.

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Read the full story here: The Houston Chronicle

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Separating facts from fiction in fracking – Houston Chronicle

Separating facts from fiction in fracking – Houston Chronicle.

Separating facts from fiction in fracking

Updated 10:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Threats by Iran to blockade the Straits of Hormuz and the political gridlock over the Keystone XL Pipeline construction project have put energy where it rightly belongs: front and center.

It’s about time. Nearly 40 years after the Arab oil embargo, this nation has no workable energy policy; we choose instead to lurch from crisis to crisis with ad hoc solutions.

Our country needs a better approach, and exactly what that is should be a major topic of sensible, not superheated, discussion in the coming campaign for the White House. The usual partisan talking past each other by presidential candidates insults voters. It’s time for sensible, fact-based decisions about how we move forward on energy policy. We have choices to make and some major opportunities in prospect.

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Read the fill article here: The Houston Chronicle

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The Sacketts and the Clean Water Act – NYTimes.com

The Sacketts and the Clean Water Act – NYTimes.com.

Editorial

The Sacketts and the Clean Water Act

Chantell and Michael Sackett’s case against the Environmental Protection Agency before the Supreme Court on Monday might appear to be David versus Goliath. But those supporting the Sacketts with friend-of-the-court briefs are corporate Goliaths like General Electric and real estate developers eager to weaken the E.P.A.’s ability to protect wetlands and waterways under the federal Clean Water Act.

The Sacketts owned a small lot about 500 feet from Idaho’s pristine Priest Lake. They filled part of it with dirt and rock in preparing to build a house. The E.P.A. determined that the lot is federally protected wetland so the Sacketts needed a permit to do the work, which they did not seek. The agency ordered the couple to remove the fill because pollutants were being discharged.

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This case goes far beyond the Sacketts’ right to fill in their lot without a permit. If the Supreme Court allows them to seek pre-enforcement review, it will be handing a big victory to corporations and developers who want to evade the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

Read the full story here: The New York Times

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Fracking: Is there really 100 years’ worth of natural gas beneath the United States? – Slate Magazine

Fracking: Is there really 100 years’ worth of natural gas beneath the United States? – Slate Magazine.

What the Frack?

Is there really 100 years’ worth of natural gas beneath the United States?

The recent press about the potential of shale gas would have you believe that America is now sitting on a 100-year supply of natural gas. It’s a “game-changer.” A “golden age of gas” awaits, one in which the United States will be energy independent, even exporting gas to the rest of the world, upending our current energy-importing situation.

The data, however, tell a very different story. Between the demonstrable gas reserves, and the potential resources blared in the headlines, lies an enormous gulf of uncertainty.

[…]

Read the full story here: Slate Magazine

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Questions About Organic Produce and Sustainability – NYTimes.com

Questions About Organic Produce and Sustainability – NYTimes.com.

Organic Agriculture May Be Outgrowing Its Ideals

TODOS SANTOS, Mexico — Clamshell containers on supermarket shelves in the United States may depict verdant fields, tangles of vines and ruby red tomatoes. But at this time of year, the tomatoes, peppers and basil certified as organic by the Agriculture Department often hail from the Mexican desert, and are nurtured with intensive irrigation.

Growers here on the Baja Peninsula, the epicenter of Mexico’s thriving new organic export sector, describe their toil amid the cactuses as “planting the beach.”

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Read the full article here: The New York Times

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Reef poured, Port Mansfield hopes big fish are on the way – San Antonio Express-News

Reef poured, Port Mansfield hopes big fish are on the way – San Antonio Express-News.

Reef poured, Port Mansfield hopes big fish are on the way

Recycled culverts to provide habitat for fish and marine life.
Updated 02:20 a.m., Friday, December 30, 2011

PORT MANSFIELD — Peak season may be half a year away, but local fishing guide Terry Neal already is envisioning taking charters offshore for the first time in years, to what promises to become one of the Texas coast’s favorite saltwater fishing destinations.

And it’s all thanks to more than 4,000 unwanted concrete culverts.

In a project sponsored by the Coastal Conservation Association, Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow, and Texas Parks and Wildlife, a 200-foot barge loaded with the culverts in July was unloaded some seven nautical miles from Port Mansfield.

Dumping giant concrete tubes into the ocean may not seem very fish-friendly, but artificial reefs create habitat that to finned creatures may as well be the hottest new condos. Once barnacles start to attach and smaller fish start to feed, it won’t be long before the big game fish, including snapper, marlin, kingfish, and wahoo, follow.

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Read the full story here: San Antonio Express-News

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Eagle Ford construction is booming – San Antonio Express-News

Eagle Ford construction is booming – San Antonio Express-News.

Eagle Ford construction is booming

Updated 08:44 p.m., Thursday, December 29, 2011

The housing business remains emphatically average across the major cities in Texas, as home builders continue to pull themselves up from the recession.

But in many small South Texas communities, where oil and gas drilling is booming, housing — of any sort, be it RVs or single-family homes — can’t be added quickly enough.

Then there’s the commercial space — or, more accurately, the lack of space for lease or purchase.

Now more developers and builders from San Antonio and beyond are moving into the sparsely populated Eagle Ford Shale counties to build everything from housing to pipe yards to warehouses.

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Read the full story here: San Antonio Express-News

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In Louisiana, Twist in Fight Over Texaco Drilling Lease – NYTimes.com

In Louisiana, Twist in Fight Over Texaco Drilling Lease – NYTimes.com.

Bitter Twist in Louisiana Family’s Long Drilling Fight

ERATH, La. — It began as a landlord-tenant dispute, Louisiana style.

The tenant was Texaco; the landlord the Broussard family, heirs of a Cajun rancher, who claimed that Texaco’s operation of a gas plant on its property had left the land contaminated. The lawsuit, of a kind not all that rare in these industry-heavy parts, had dragged on so long that 13 of the heirs had died.

But it took a sudden and bitter turn in recent months, when another company — a company that, like Texaco, is a subsidiary of Chevronsued to condemn most of the disputed land and expropriate it, arguing that it was acting in the national interest.

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Read the full story here: The New York Times

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Dry Season: The Texas Drought of 2011 – Collective Vision | Photoblog for the Austin American-Statesman

Dry Season: The Texas Drought of 2011 – Collective Vision | Photoblog for the Austin American-Statesman.

Dry Season: The Texas Drought of 2011

Photographs by Jay Janner

Story by Brenda Bell

Austin American-Statesman staff

The meanest drought in modern Texas history looks different out here, away from the cities.

There are no emerald swaths of St. Augustine lawns, no blooming shrubs, no misters cooling bar patrons as the sun goes down on another cloudless, 105-degree day. The disconnect between what rural Texans are experiencing and sheltered urbanites are seeing has never seemed greater.

Out here, the brutality of the drought is measured not in annoying water restrictions or water pipes bursting in the dessicated ground — all now commonplace in Texas cities and towns — but threatened livelihoods, and the waning of life itself.

Livestock and agricultural losses are already estimated at $5.2 billion, and expected to rise. Stock tanks have dried up, hungry cattle are being rushed to market, crops plowed under. Wildfires have torched more than 3.4 million acres; deer are abandoning their young; oak trees that have weathered many a hot summer are fading.

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Read the full story and see the pictures here: The Austin-American Statesman

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Climate Scientists Hampered in Study of 2011 Extremes – NYTimes.com

Climate Scientists Hampered in Study of 2011 Extremes – NYTimes.com.

News Analysis

Harsh Political Reality Slows Climate Studies Despite Extreme Year

At the end of one of the most bizarre weather years in American history, climate research stands at a crossroads.

Scientists say they could, in theory, do a much better job of answering the question “Did global warming have anything to do with it?” after extreme weather events like the drought in Texas and the floods in New England.

But for many reasons, efforts to put out prompt reports on the causes of extreme weather are essentially languishing. Chief among the difficulties that scientists face: the political environment for new climate-science initiatives has turned hostile, and with the federal budget crisis, money is tight.

And so, as the weather becomes more erratic by the year, the public is left to wonder what is going on.

[…]

Read the full story here: The New York Times

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