Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gas-lease cash to pay new inspectors of drilling sites

IT'S ABOUT TIME!

Agency says gas-lease cash to aid hiring of inspectors
BY L. LAMOR WILLIAMS
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2008
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/246962/

Gas-lease money to hire inspectors

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is set to get $3.5 million from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that it will use to hire more inspectors to keep watch on the state's growing natural gas drilling industry.
Teresa Marks, director of the Department of Environmental Quality, said Wednesday that while a formal agreement has yet to be signed, she is looking forward to using the money to hire new inspectors to regulate drill-water disposal sites.
The money will come from leases issued by the Game and Fish Commission to natural-gas firms to drill on state-wildlife management areas.
Drilling for natural gas in the Fayetteville Shale geologic formation has led to the creation of at least 13 drill-water disposal sites, which are permitted to store the water and rock sediment discarded during drilling. Two sites recently were ordered to cease operation until violations have been remedied.
...
The department currently has 17 inspectors who only visit the disposal sites in response to complaints. Eight inspectors are assigned to the Fayetteville Shale.
The Game and Fish Commission earns about $30 million annually on the land leases.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Raft Creek pollution by gas-driller's waste kills fish in Wildlife Management Area

 
Dead fish spur state to ban site from taking driller wastewater
BY L. LAMOR WILLIAMS
Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2008
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/246862
Gas-drilling waste kills fish in Raft Creek

A second facility used to store and dispose of discarded water used by natural gas drillers can no longer accept the wastewater, the director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality said Tuesday.
A property owner reported seeing dead fish on his property near the Griffithville disposal site operated by Searcy-based Central Arkansas Disposal, said Teresa Marks, director of the Department of Environmental Quality.
After investigating, the department issued an emergency order Friday after an inspection found a "large unlined, unpermitted waste treatment reservoir," being filled through an underground pipe from the licensed facility, the emergency order states.
On Dec. 3, the department closed a wastewater storage and disposal facility near Carlisle for improperly applying the water onto farmland.
Marks imposed a moratorium on new permits for drill fluid storage facilities until a study is completed examining the effects the operations have on soils and waterways. She said Central Arkansas Disposal was already scheduled for sampling.
The director said the complaint coincided with the ongoing study.
"We did have some sampling that was part of the scientific study, but also had a complaint about a reservoir that a citizen was concerned about," she said. "We went out to test as a result of the complaint and determined that it had high a level of chlorides."
The manager of Central Arkansas Disposal, Ron Carl, was traveling out-of-state Tuesday and was unavailable for comment, according to a man who answered the phone at the company's office in Searcy.
The unpermitted reservoir was emptying into Raft Creek, the emergency order says and an employee from Central Arkansas Disposal "stated that the fluid within the reservoir was from the Central Arkansas Disposal facility. The employee did not know if the fluid reached the reservoir by pumping or gravity flow."
A water sample also found high chloride levels in the stream. The creek feeds the Steve Wilson/Raft Creek Wildlife Management Area in White County.
Mike Armstrong, chief of fisheries for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said because the fish found on the landowners property had been dead for at least a week or more, it was hard to determine the magnitude of the fish kill in the creek.
"We did delineate that between a one-mile and two-mile stretch of the creek was affected," Armstrong said. "We found several largemouth bass up to 4 pounds and quality sized crappie so there was a robust fish population in those ditches."
Armstrong said the commission would study data on similar habitats to make an estimation of how many fish should be in the area.
"I would suspect that kill would be in the thousands with dead bass in the 2- to 4-pound range," he said.
Land farms consist of at least two large plastic-lined ponds that hold drilling fluid - which is mainly water and rock sediment discarded during drilling. After obtaining a permit from the department, land farm owners are allowed to irrigate crops with the fluid, after sending samples to the department.
The fluid is generated by companies drilling for natural gas in the Fayetteville Shale, a geologic formation that stretches from north-central Arkansas to the Mississippi River. The formation is expected to have a $22 billion impact on the Arkansas economy by 2012, according to a University of Arkansas study.
Marks said she is unaware of any drinking water in the area that could be affected, but that the company now faces a penalty of up to $10,000 per day of being in violation of its permit.
She said the emergency order simply calls for the company to cease operation, but enforcement action will follow.
"We have a matrix at the water department and we can plug in such information as whether or not harm was done to the environment; whether or not it was an intentional act and whether or not the company has a history of violations, things like that."
Copyright © 2001-2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact: webmaster@nwanews.com

Saturday, December 13, 2008

AP says drilling waste from Fayetteville shale gas wells used for irrigation found to be oily

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas
http://www.nwaonline.net/articles/2008/12/13/news/121308arfayshale.txt

Firm Ordered Not To Take Drilling Wastewater

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CARLISLE -- A company that collects wastewater from natural gas companies drilling in the Fayetteville Shale has been ordered by environmental regulators to stop.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality issued the emergency order to Fayetteville Shale Land Farms near Carlisle after an inspection found the fluid -- a mixture of water and sediment discarded from the drilling process -- was not adequately contained on the property and included oil in violation of the state permit.

Arkansas has 13 "land farms." The operations use large plastic-lined ponds to hold drilling fluid, which they then use to irrigate crops. The wastewater must be contained and absorbed on the property and cannot include oil-based drilling fluids, which are listed as hazardous waste.

In its Dec. 3 order, the department said Fayetteville Shale Land Farms improperly applied the fluid to crops, creating pools on the Lonoke County property. Also, an inspector found "what appeared to be a large amount of oil in the staging pond."

According to the order, "Oil should not be found in the staging pond for fluids that are to be land applied."

Deputy Director Steve Martin said the inspection most likely was prompted by a complaint from a nearby resident.

A spokesman for Fayetteville Land Shale Farms did not immediately return a call for comment.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

ADEQ makes pretense of protecting Arkansas watersheds from gas-drilling pollution

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas


State Plans Closer Look At Drilling Water
By The Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK -- The top state environmental regulator her agency will increase inspections of areas where drilling companies store water used in boring through rock to reach natural gas deposits.
Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Teresa Marks said Friday companies now send test samples to the department but that she wants the agency to start conducting its own tests.
Drilling has expanded rapidly across the Fayetteville Shale in north-central Arkansas, where higher natural gas prices have made it economically feasible to probe more difficult areas to extract gas. Drilling sites have lined storage ponds that contain water and rock from the drilling process.
Marks says random inspections at the ponds are to start immediately.
“A concern I have is we don’t know for sure what’s in those ponds,” Marks said Friday during the Arkansas Watershed Advisory Group and Arkansas Stream Team Watershed Conference. “They send us test samples, but we want to do testing ourselves.”
Marks says she has 17 inspectors, with eight of them working Fayetteville Shale. She says she needs to hire more inspectors to be able to handle the random testing.
Marks said that it would take a few months after the inspections to develop a report on the findings. There are a dozen sites that are allowed to store water that’s used during drilling, and three other companies are seeking ADEQ permits, she said.
“We want to do more testing and more research to determine the long-term effects the facilities could have on Arkansas,” Marks said.
The water can be used to irrigate crops, but soil and water samples must first be approved by ADEQ.
State Rep. Betty Pickett, D-Conway, who was at the gathering, said the Legislature should provide resources the ADEQ needs.
“This may be one of the biggest economic boons in Arkansas, and Arkansas needs it,” Pickett said. “Arkansas will be enriched by what’s going on, but while we bask in the dollar signs, we must not develop a blind eye for the environmental impact this will have. There’s no reason we have to trade one for the other.”
Shale drilling will contribute an estimated $22 billion to the state economy by 2012.
Pickett said she will encourage state regulatory agencies, such as the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission and the ADEQ to work closely together to keep an eye on the industry.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Good idea only if using waste material from agriculture and timber production and without decreasing wildlife habitat. Clearing land pollutes air

Summit promotes growing high-energy plants
BY DUSTIN TRACY
Posted on Saturday, October 11, 2008
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/nwat/News/69979/
Northwest Arkansas Times Fayetteville’s first ever Sustainability Summit brought more than 300 people to the city’s center to talk about ways organizations can become more environmentally friendly. One way discussed was a switch from conventional diesel fuel to the use of bioenergybased fuel. Jim Wimberly with BioEnergy System LLC in Fayetteville talked about the energy-efficient idea at a small breakout session during the summit. “ Agriculture and energy are so intertwined, ” Wimberly said.
He said the idea is to start promoting the growth of high-energy yielding plants that can be processed and manufactured into a full spectrum of energy projects, including fuel for automobiles.
“ In essence, plants are batteries, ” he said. “ They store energy through photosynthesis. ”
Arkansas provides a large amount of natural resources to make bioenergy manufacturing a reality, Wimberly said, and if the state takes an active interest in the concept, it could cut in half its yearly 1 billion gallons of petroleum used each year.
“ It would take just under a million acres of herbaceous energy crops (crops high in energy ) to displace half of that diesel used, ” he said.
Wimberly said a lot of research is being done on soybeans to create biodiesel, and that it’s a good fuel. However, he said fuel users need to broaden their horizons.
“ We need to quit being worried about planting a future around traditional approaches to biofuel, ” he said.
The state has the forest and farmland to support biofuel operations, which makes it already an attractive location to bioenergy companies, Wimberly said, but Arkansas and its cities need to work towards sealing the deal with the green fuel producers.
“ We are in competition with neighboring states, ” Wimberly said.
Financial incentives as well as getting state landowners and far mers on board with the idea could be the key, Wimberly said.
“ It’s not going to happen unless (farmers ) can make at least as much money as they do growing traditional crops, ” he said.
Copyright © 2001-2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact: webmaster@nwanews.com

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Governor's commission on global warming tentatively says NO to new coal-fired power plants

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas


Panel Tentatively Endorses Ban On New Plants

By Peggy Harris
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LITTLE ROCK -- An Arkansas commission studying ways to reduce global warming tentatively endorsed a ban Thursday on new coal-fired power plants, saying a proposed $1.5 billion facility in Hempstead County shouldn't open until at least 2020.

The preliminary proposal would allow the John W. Turk Jr. plant near Fulton to open eight years later than planned, when new "sequestration" technology presumably would be available to capture harmful carbon dioxide emissions and store them in the ground. The plant could open sooner if the technology becomes available.

Under the proposal, the $1.3 billion Plum Point plant being built near Osceola could open as planned in 2010 but operators would have to retrofit the plant with the new anti-pollution technology once it becomes available.

Any other new coal-fired power plants in Arkansas would have to have the new technology when they open.

Currently, sequestration is not in use at any commercial power plant in the country. But the new technology is among the many innovations being discussed nationally and worldwide to reverse global warming.

State Rep. Kathy Webb, who chairs the Governor's Commission on Global Warming, said the draft proposal was one of about 50 the group has analyzed over the last several months with the help of consultants. The panel expects to have its final recommendations in a report to Gov. Mike Beebe by Oct. 31. Legislators could consider the measures when they meet in regular session next year.

Webb, D-Little Rock, said the proposed ban has been among the most controversial of the draft recommendations.

Coal-fired power plants and automobiles are the leading producers of carbon dioxide, the chief culprit of global warming. They also are a primary generator of electricity in the U.S. and considered essential to economic growth.

Commission members from the energy industry Thursday voiced opposition to the proposed ban.

Gary Voight, chief executive of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, said scrapping plans for new plants would mean using "dirtier" inefficient plants that produce more pollution and fail to meet consumer demand.

He said a ban would effectively make it more difficult for utilities to produce electricity economically and free up more money to invest in energy-efficient technology. In addition, Voight said, the Arkansas Public Service Commission has already imposed conditions on Southwestern Electric Power Co. to address pollution at the planned 600-megawatt plant in Hempstead County.

"This is a bad plan. It's retroactive regulation," said Voight, whose cooperative plans partly own the SWEPCO plant. "The commission has already ruled that SWEPCO must evaluate all carbon sequestration and capture technologies as available in the future so this (proposal) is pointless. It's a waste of time, and we should all vote against it and get it off the table."

Other commissioners spoke of the seriousness of global warming and the need to take strong action.

"This is what Congress is talking about. This is what a lot, a lot of scientists are concerned about. New coal plants, we're talking about moratorium until sequestration," said Art Hobson, a physics professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Commissioner Kevin Smith, the former state senator from Stuttgart, said without a moratorium Arkansas could become "the new Pittsburgh -- not the Natural State." And commissioner Rob Fisher, executive director of The Ecological Conservation Organization, said the proposal was the most important recommendation the panel could make.

"If we don't pass this option, everything else we do is pointless," he said.

The commission endorsed the recommendation by a vote of 11-10.

Kacee Kirschvink, a spokeswoman for SWEPCO, said the Turk plant would be one of the cleanest coal plants in North America. She said it would use "ultra-supercritical" technology that requires less fuel and produces less carbon dioxide. In addition, she said, the plant could be retrofitted for newer technology once it becomes available.

"It would not be good public policy to change the rules now after much planning and investment has been done to meet the energy needs of SWEPCO's customers," she said.

Shreveport, La.-based SWEPCO wants to open the plant in 2012 and has begun site work, while awaiting an air-quality permit from state environmental regulators. SWEPCO is a part of Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power Co.

David Byford, a spokesman for Plum Point developers Dynegy Inc., said the commission proposal was in the early stages and Dynegy might comment later after further study.

Web Watch:

Arkansas Governors Commission on Global Warming

www.arclimatechange.us

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fracking will pollute our water in the rush to produce natural gas from shale formations

Info on gas production YOU need to know‏
From: Frances Alexander (fran@deane-alexander.com)
Sent: Sun 9/21/08 11:24 PM
To:
My friend who forwarded this article wrote, " I am wondering at what point the state with the least polluted water is going to be the economic engine of this country." Those of us trying with all our hearts and souls to shake reason into the minds of politicians and our fellow citizens deserve first chance at whatever place is left on this planet that bizness-as-usual hasn't poisoned. Fran


Controversial path to possible glut of natural gas

Water and chemicals injected at high pressure can extract more gas – and possibly pollute drinking water.

By Mark Clayton| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor/ September 17, 2008 edition



After decades of declining US natural-gas production, an advanced drilling system so powerful it fractures rock with high-pressure fluid is opening up vast shale-gas deposits.

Instead of falling, US gas production is rising, with up to 118 years’ worth of “unconventional” natural gas reserves in 21 huge shale basins, an industry study in July reported. Such reserves could make the nation more energy self-sufficient and provide more of a cleaner “bridge fuel” to help meet carbon-reduction goals urged by environmentalists.

Shale gas reserves have a powerful economic lure. Companies, states, and landowners could all reap a windfall in the tens of billions. Some also predict lower heating costs for residential gas users as production increases.

Now, scores of natural gas companies are fanning out from Fort Worth, Texas, where hydraulic fracturing of shale has been done for at least five years, to lease shale lands in 19 states, including Pennsylvania and New York.

But some warn that by expanding “hydraulic fracturing” of shale, America strikes a Faustian bargain: It gains new energy reserves, but it consumes and quite possibly pollutes critical water resources.

“People need to understand that these are not your old-fashioned gas wells,” says Tracy Carluccio, special projects director for Delaware Riverkeeper, a watchdog group worried about a surge in new gas drilling from New York to Pennsylvania and from Ohio to West Virginia. “This technology produces tremendous amounts of polluted water and uses dangerous chemicals in every single well that’s developed.”

Traditional gas wells bore straight into porous stone, using a few thousand gallons of water during drilling. But dense shale has gas locked inside.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and horizontal drilling unlock it.

Each hydraulically fractured horizontal well can require from 2 million to 7 million gallons of fresh water mixed with sand and thousands of gallons of industrial chemicals to make the water penetrate more easily.

This frac-water mixture is blasted at high pressure into shale deposits up to 10,000 feet deep, fracturing them. The sand lodges in the cracks, propping them open and providing a path for the gas to exit after external pressure is released.

Besides using vast amounts of groundwater, scientists and environmentalists worry that toxic frac water – 30 percent or more – remains underground and may years later pollute freshwater aquifers.

Millions of gallons of frac water come back to the surface. It could be treated, but in Texas it is most often reinjected into the ground.

Millions more gallons of “produced” water flow out later during gas production. This flow, too, is often tainted with radioactivity and poisons from the shale. Often stored in pits, that waste can leak or overflow while awaiting reinjection.

Simply put: “Each of these wells uses millions of gallons of fresh water, and all of it is going to be contaminated,” Ms. Carluccio says.
Industry spokesmen say such fears are overblown.

“The wells we drill … are insulated with concrete,” says Chip Minty, a spokesman for Devon Energy, an Oklahoma City-based gas company that pioneered hydraulic fracturing in the Barnett shale formation beneath Fort Worth, Texas. “The purpose is to protect any kind of aquifer or ground water layer. Those processes are controlled by regulatory agencies, and that keeps us safe from any kind of aquifer pollution.”

A pioneer in “best practices,” Devon has also developed a way to purify and reuse frac water. But those techniques are costly and not widely used at present. Whether such practices will be required elsewhere is an open question.

Targets for this new kind of drilling

One huge target is the Marcellus shale basin that spans large parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. States are eager to get to get new revenues – and so are many landowners lining up to sign leases.

“I’ll be glad to welcome the crews with open arms,” writes Al Czervic in the Catskill Commentator, an online publication. “Drill here, my friends,” he writes, “Drill here. And then, drill some more.”

But amid this gold-rush-type fever in the Delaware and Susquehanna River Basins, voices warn that environmental safeguards and industry standards need to be beefed up before drill bits hit – or the great gas boom could exact a steep price in polluted water.

“Decades ago, we weren’t careful with coal mining,” wrote Bryan Swistock, a water resources specialist with the Penn State Cooperative Extension, in a recent statement. “As a result, we are still paying huge sums to clean up acid mine drainage. We need to be careful and vigilant or we could see lasting damage to our water resources from so many deep gas wells.”

State environmental agencies and industry experts say multiple systems will be in place to safeguard water.

“The current balanced management approach works – allowing for effective state regulatory programs that appropriately protect the environment while providing for the essential development of oil and gas,” wrote Steph anie Meadows, a senior policy adviser at the American Pet rol eum Institute, a Wash ington trade group, in an e-mail response to Monitor questions on hydraulic fracturing.

Where safeguards failed

Still, one can point to examples where those safeguards did not work. New Mexico and Colorado, which have struggled with leakage from frac-water waste pits involving gas exploration, are now moving forward with legislation.

“There are numerous instances in various states of surface water and drinking water contamination from hydraulic frac turing,” says Kate Sinding, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources De fense Council in New York. “Nobody, including the industry, has done any in-depth examination to find out the impact on ground water. We are seeing some bad stuff coming out of individual wells and taps.”

The nation’s shale-gas guinea pigs reside in 15 counties around Fort Worth, where shale-gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing has been validated in recent years. The results have brought wealth to some, but infuriated others.

Charlotte Harris and her husband signed a mineral lease last year. But she’s upset now. She sharply recalls a day last November when her drinking-water well died and a new gas well 100 yards from her Grandview, Texas, home was born.

She washed dishes that morning as usual, she says in an phone interview. But after a shower, her skin itched terribly and she realized the water had a sulfurous odor. Later that day, without warning, her toilet erupted. Water shot out of it “like Niagara Falls.”

About that time, she learned, powerful pump trucks at the nearby well site were sending pulses of water mixed with sand and chemicals thousands of feet down into solid shale to fracture it to increase the flow of gas. She and her husband now believe some of that fluid escaped under pressure much nearer the surface.

After the Harrises complained, the drilling company had the water tested but found no problem. Harris’s next-door neighbor, John Sayers, had a lab test his well water. The lab found toluene, a chemical used in explosives, paint stripper – and often in drilling fluids.

Almost a year later, the Harris family well water, once clear and sweet, is murky and foul-smelling. Ms. Harris’s husband, Stevan, trucks in about 1,500 gallons twice a week, at 15 cents a gallon.

“We’re not using that [well] water for anything at all,” Mr. Sayers says. “I was told not to drink, wash, or anything. Not even water my grass with it.”

Is New York City drinking water at risk?

In July, New York’s governor signed a bill to permit shale-gas drilling using fracturing technology, which could bring the state $1 billion in annual revenues. But the state is first requiring an updated environmental assessment and may yet require companies to reveal the type of chemicals they mix with the water they shoot down the wells – something that Texas does not require.

New York City is one of only four large cities in the nation with unfiltered drinking water. It flows from the northern Catskill region. That’s the same basin in which gas companies want to drill.

Drilling “is completely and utterly inconsistent with a drinking water supply,” said New York City Councilman James Gennaro at a press conference last month. “This would destroy the New York City watershed, and for what? For short-term gains on natural gas.”

But while New York has a drilling freeze pending its environmental review, a gas-drilling rush is on in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River region. Scores of wells are being drilled, with applications pending to drill hundreds more. In the long run, some say there may be 10,000 new gas wells across the region.

“We’re hearing various stories … about flow backwater,” says Susan Obleski, a spokeswoman for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which oversees water usage. “We could eventually be seeing 29 million gallons a day usage by this industry. That sounds like a lot, but golf courses use double that.”

The concern, however, is that the most productive gas drilling areas tend to be in remote, forested areas, with forested streams – headwaters areas. If water is removed in significant amounts from there, it could damage ecosystems and Susquehanna watershed water quality.

The SBRC has issued two cease-and-desist orders to companies illegally re moving water. It has told 23 others to clarify requirements, and found that about 50, in all, are vying for water, leases, and drilling permits in the region.

Tiny Nockamixon Township, which has resisted gas drilling, is being sued by natural-gas drillers. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which some towns are seeking to overturn lower court decisions that keep municipalities from having laws regulating gas drilling inside their borders.

Back in Texas, some are fighting the practice of reinjecting frac water into the earth. In Erath County, near Fort Worth, Bill Gordon has successfully protested several new commercial injection wells that, according to him, would have pumped as much as 30,000 barrels a day of untreated frac water underground.

A recent lightning strike set one such well on fire, proving to Mr. Gordon that volatile chemicals remain in the fluid.

“Nobody knows what’s in this drilling fluid,” he says. “I think we need to know.”

What’s being injected deep underground?



Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are not new. Both date back decades. But their combined use to get gas from shale formations is new within the past decade.
Hydraulic fracturing has long been used to get gas from coal beds, a process some say is similar to shale-gas fracturing.

An Environmental Protection Agency study in 2004 concluded that hydraulic fracturing to get methane gas from coal beds “poses little or no threat” to drinking water supplies. But several EPA scientists have challenged that finding.

“EPA produced a final report … that I believe is scientifically unsound and contrary to the purposes of law,” Weston Wilson, a 30-year EPA veteran, wrote in a whistle-blower petition in 2004. “Based on the available science and literature, EPA’s conclusions are unsupportable.”

Today, chemicals used in fracturing are considered by the companies to be trade secrets. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts companies from being forced by the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and other federal laws to reveal what chemicals are in their fracturing fluids.

But some say that it’s critical to know what’s being injected deep underground.

“We’re very concerned about this toxic drilling and hydraulic fracturing,” says Gwen Lachelt, director of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project in Durango, Colo. “We need to know what’s in what they’re putting into the ground.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A new proposal by the Bush/Cheney Administration would gut the law that protects polar bears, wolves and other endangered species

CREDO Action from Working Assets is proud to bring you an urgent alert from our friends at Defenders of Wildlife.

The Bush administration has announced a new proposal that would gut the Endangered Species Act — one of America's most important environmental laws. Now Defenders of Wildlife needs our help to preserve the vital checks and balances that protect our polar bears, wolves and other imperiled animals.

I urge you to read the message below from Defenders of Wildlife's president, Rodger Schlickeisen, and take action today to save our endangered species.

Michael Kieschnick
President, CREDO Mobile
Emergency Action
A new proposal by the Bush/Cheney Administration would gut the law that protects polar bears, wolves and other endangered species.
Urge your Representative and Senators to help stop the Bush/Cheney plan to gut the Endangered Species Act.
Dear Wildlife Supporter,
With less than 160 days left in power, the Bush/Cheney Administration has launched an unprecedented backdoor assault on America's endangered species!
Don't let them get away with it. Urge your Representative and Senators to do everything in their power to stop the Bush/Cheney Administration's eleventh-hour assault on America's wildlife.
For more than 30 years, the Endangered Species Act has protected wildlife at risk of extinction. Now the Bush/Cheney Administration wants to eliminate vital checks and balances that are crucial to protect our polar bears, wolves and other imperiled wildlife.
Please help protect endangered animals from the Bush/Cheney Administration's attack. Take action now.
Announced earlier this week, the Bush/Cheney proposal would severely limit scientific review by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service of projects that could harm imperiled wildlife. And it would explicitly limit the ability of these expert agencies to consider how greenhouse gas emissions from such projects could impact polar bears, wolverines and other wildlife that may go extinct due to global warming.
Instead, agencies proposing projects such as highways, dams, mines, oil or gas drilling and virtually any other activity would be allowed to decide for themselves whether a project is likely to impact any of the nearly 1,400 species currently protected by the Endangered Species Act — without the crucial independent review now provided by scientific experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Many of these agencies do not even have biologists or other qualified staff to make such a determination.
Even worse, the new regulations would impose a brief 60-day review period for agencies, making it even less likely that anyone involved in the process will have the time or expertise to fully evaluate the potential harmful effects of a given project on sensitive wildlife or the habitat it needs to survive.
Help stop the Bush/Cheney Administration's assault on protections for our endangered species. Please take action now.
There are less than 160 days left in the Bush/Cheney Administration — and even less time for your Members of Congress to act. Please take action now to help stop the Bush/Cheney Administration's last-minute attempt to eliminate effective protections for the wildlife that you and I love.
Sincerely,
Rodger Schlickeisen
President
Defenders of Wildlife

P.S. Two years ago, Defenders of Wildlife led the fight that stopped Congressional legislation that would have gutted the Endangered Species Act. Now we need your help to stop the Bush Administration from trying to do the same thing. Please take action now!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oil-drilling madness continues to dominate political thinking

The Drill of It All
Did you know that oil companies are already sitting on 68 million acres of leases that they aren't even drilling? Which kind of makes you wonder: Why are Big Oil and its allies suddenly desperate to get their hands on the last few places that are still protected -- our natural treasures, wildlife refuges, and pristine coastlines? They wouldn't use the concerns caused by high gas prices as an excuse to grab it ALL, would they?

Check out our map showing how much of our country Big Oil has already got and spread the word by forwarding it to friends who agree: Enough is enough.

So far, one woman has stood up to Big Oil. Let's thank Speaker Pelosi for keeping a cool head and holding out for real solutions.

| Discuss |




Make Your Travel Matter
Sierra Club founder John Muir believed deeply that conservation begins with experiencing nature's grandeur firsthand, and that's still the guiding principle of Sierra Club Outings. Sure, you could spend another vacation in a high-rise at an overcrowded beach. Or, you could study retreating glaciers from your kayak in remote eastern Greenland, maintain hiking trails in Puerto Rico, or support grassroots environmental efforts in Costa Rica.

Travel with us, and you'll have much more than a vacation. We've just launched our 2009 lineup of international trips, plus a few select domestic itineraries.

Our most popular trips fill up quickly, so have a look now and discover your next life-changing experience.

| Discuss |



The Thirty Percent Solution
Homes and other buildings are America's largest consumers of energy and a major contributor to global warming. That's why the Sierra Club's Cool Cities Campaign is joining with local governments, businesses, and energy-efficiency advocates to support a bold new proposal to adopt "green" building codes for new homes: the Thirty Percent Solution.

Next month, building-code officials from around the country will meet in Minneapolis to vote on whether to strengthen building-code energy-efficiency standards in new homes by 30 percent. By 2030, that would save an estimated 8 quadrillion BTUs of energy and $88 billion in energy costs; reduce CO2 by 464 million metric tons; and create new clean-energy construction and service jobs in the building trades and energy-efficiency product industries.

Make sure your community will be represented at the meeting -- contact your mayor or county leader today.

| Discuss |

Winds of Change in West Virginia
The residents of the Coal River Valley of West Virginia, with the support of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, are proposing the development of a 440-megawatt wind farm as an economically viable alternative to a planned mountaintop-removal coal-mining operation. If the mountaintop-removal coal-mining proceeds as planned, it will destroy ten square miles of the mountain, pollute waterways, devastate the surrounding communities, and eliminate the vast wind potential the mountain now holds.

Add your signature to the petition asking West Virginia Governor Manchin to protect Coal River Mountain and bring clean energy and green jobs to West Virginia!




EXPLORE


Stand Up to Skeptics
The Sierra Club has joined forces with the Natural Resources Defense Council in smacking down global-warming skeptics at a new website called OpposingViews.com.

Take a look at all sides of the argument, recommend your favorite ones, and post comments.


"Staring Down Doomsday"
From Sierra Magazine: High school students from the Bronx hit the Appalachian Trail and face their fears.

PROTECT


Support the No Child Left Inside Act
Tell your Representative to support the No Child Left Inside Act to provide students with quality environmental education.

If we act now, we can ensure more American children become adults ready to face the environmental challenges that lie ahead.

Sierra Club
85 Second St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
insider@sierraclub.org
http://www.sierraclub.org/

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NO COAL meeting Wednesday August 13th 7pm

Molly Rawn
OHG Sierra Club, Chair
(479) 879-1620

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: James Burke
Date: Mon, Aug 11, 2008 at 6:05 PM
Subject: Important NO COAL meeting Wednesday August 13th 7pm
To: burke@ecoconservation.org
Hi everyone,

We had a successful tour traveling the state last week showing the documentary "Fighting Goliath" and talking with community groups about forming a no new coal coalition. Check out these links for an update:

http://arkansasmatters.com/content/fulltext/news/?cid=96901

http://www.nwaonline.net/articles/2008/08/04/news/080508fzlibmov.txt
So far we have set up 'Clean Air Arkansas' groups in Fayetteville, Little Rock, Conway, and Hope to oppose the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

This Wednesday August 13th at 7pm we will meet in Fayetteville to discuss in more detail our campaign and delegate roles to people who are committed to this effort. Please join us and invite your friends and family. Time is running out and we need to come together to stop these coal plants

Here is the address for the meeting this Wednesday:
United Campus Ministry
Omni Center
902 W Maple St
Fayetteville, AR

Also, Maggie Bailey, a volunteer in Fayetteville has asked to coordinate events while I am in Little Rock so you can email either her or me for more questions about our campaign. Here is Maggie's email: mtucker22@yahoo.com

Hope to see you at the meeting. Thanks for your support.

James

burke@ecoconservation.org

www.ecoconservation.org

336-455-1065

Monday, August 11, 2008

Waste Management to Dedicate Arkansasʼ First Landfill-Gas-to-Energy Plant

WASTE MANAGEMENT NEWS RELEASE

Waste Management to Dedicate Arkansasʼ First Landfill Gas to Energy Plant and
Announce New Partnership with Audubon Arkansas

Senator Blanche Lincoln, Governor Mike Beebe and Congressman Vic Snyder Scheduled to Attend Event


State and local leaders will join Waste Management executives on Tuesday, August 12, 9:30 am at the Two Pine Landfill to officially dedicate Arkansasʼ first and only landfill gas-to-energy plant. This plant is part of Waste Managementʼs sustainable commitment to Arkansas as well as North America, unveiled this past October as part of Waste Managementʼs 2020 plan.
Additionally, Waste Management officials will announce a new first-of-its-kind partnership with Audubon Arkansas.

What: Landfill Gas to Energy Plant Dedication and Announcement of New Partnership with Audubon Arkansas
When: Tuesday, August 12 at 9:30 am
Where: Two Pine Landfill
100 Two Pine Drive
North Little Rock, AR 72117
Who: Senator Blanche Lincoln
Governor Mike Beebe
Congressman Vic Snyder
Waste Management Executives
Arkansas Audubon Director Ken Smith
The Two Pine Landfill gas-to-energy plant is a 4.8 megawatt facility, providing power for approximately 4,500 homes in North Little Rock. Consisting of six large engines, it was constructed in 2006 and recently achieved full generation. The engines are powered by methane gas, which forms in the landfill as a result of the decomposition of waste.
Approximately two years ago, Waste Management and Audubon Arkansas began discussions regarding the development of a wildlife management plan for the Two Pine Landfill. This first-of-its-kind program between Waste Management and Audubon Arkansas has the potential to expand to other Waste Management landfills. At Tuesdayʼs event, Waste Management officials and leaders from Audubon Arkansas will unveil the vision for Two Pine Landfill.
This past April, Waste Management received the stateʼs approval to expand the Two Pine Landfill. In the coming years, Waste Management plans to build an additional landfill gas-to-energy plant in the expanded landfill area.
These two projects are part of the companyʼs environmental sustainability initiative. Waste Management has committed to the following actions by 2020: doubling its waste based energy generation from the equivalent of generating enough energy for one million to two million homes, quadrupling the number of its sites certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council to 100 as well as set aside 25,000 acres for conservation, nearly tripling the amount of recyclables it manages to 20 million tons; and reducing its vehicle fleet emissions by 15 percent and increasing fuel efficiency by 15 percent.
Waste Management, based in Houston, Texas, is the leading provider of comprehensive waste management services in North America. Our subsidiaries provide collection, transfer, recycling and resource recovery, and disposal services. We are also a leading developer, operator and owner of waste-to-energy and landfill gas-to-energy facilities in the United States. Our customers include residential, commercial, industrial, and municipal customers throughout North America.
For more information, visit www.wm.com or www.thinkgreen.com

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Monarch butterflies visit World Peace Wetland Prairie to lay eggs on milkweed so that caterpillars can eat and grow

Please click on image to ENLARGE photo of monarch butterfly August 10, 2008, on World Peace Wetland Prairie.


Please click on link to ENLARGE tall-green milkweed, Asclepias hirtella, at World Peace Wetland Prairie on August 10, 2008.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Natural-gas production's environmental problems ignored in rush to maintain fossil-fuel use

CROSS CURRENTS : Frack, rattle and roll
Fran Alexander frana@nwarktimes.com
Posted on Monday, July 28, 2008
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/nwat/Editorial/67585/
“ The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘ I’m from the government, and I’m here to help. ’ ” — Ronald Reagan It has occurred to me than anyone too young to know that Bill Haley and His Comets made the song, “ Shake, Rattle, and Roll, ” famous in the early ’ 50 s will not catch the beat of this article’s title. That song’s refrain, however, keeps humming in my soul as I think about what is going on underground in Arkansas and all across the country. Perversely, Ronnie Reagan’s ghost seems to be haunting me as well.

Arkansawyers have begun to realize that there is a big deal happening in the center of their state north of Little Rock and Conway, and it has rattled land and mineral rights owners, small towns, the governor and the state legislature. There’s natural gas in them-thar hills, and we all know anything resembling an energy resource these days has speculators, investors, politicians and energy companies slathering and slobbering in excitement. With a wad of billions for the state economy (yes, with a “ b” and ranging from $ 5. 5 billion between 2005 and 2008 to speculations of $ 17. 9 billion over several years ), a paltry enviro-conscious gnat of a citizen babbling, “ Uh, any money or rules for protecting the land, air and water ? ” might as well step in front of a freight train opened at full throttle. For example, when state representative Betty Pickett of Conway County tried to bring up rational environmental issues in a resolution she hoped would calm the feeding frenzy at the state legislature, those good ole boys, with all the manners of hogs at the trough, wouldn’t even let her finish her presentation. When the Sierra Club tried a proposal to increase the number of Oil and Gas Commission regulators to help inspect the thousands of wells to be drilled (there are now only eight ), their measure failed.

“ Don’t wanna hear it” is the response when pesky ethical details get whispered in the halls of Arkansas power so you, as a citizen, should not be surprised in the years to come that reports will probably be seeping out that drilling in the Fayetteville Shale Play is costing a lot. If all it costs us is just money, that will be the ideal bad consequence.

The “ play” is mostly taking place in Van Buren, Faulkner and White counties, although Cleburne, Conway and Pope also get to reap some of the economic windfall. Hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax revenues and perhaps 10, 000 jobs certainly smack of prosperity, as well it should when little physical or fiscal overhead is being figured into calculations.

As usual, we old spoiler environmentalists with zilch influence just keep raining on parades and for the same old reasons. We would love to change our tune, but the environment and human health continue to subsidize bizness-asusual. Fracking this shale for gas production is just a new twist on the same old methods we humans have always used to rape the Earth for resources.

Drilling for gas the easy way involved putting pipes into the Earth in the right places and capturing the usable gas that spewed out. To release gas captured in shale layers, however, the rock must be fraced, fracked or fractured (pick one ). This particular formation of shale being “ played ” (oil and gas geologic prospecting and extraction ) comes closest to the surface here in Fayetteville, hence its name, and runs deeper in the central Arkansas counties, down some 5, 000 feet in places. Wells are drilled down to the seam, then make an arching right-angle turn horizontally into the narrow shale layer for a few more thousand feet. Next, approximately 1 to 5 million gallons of water per well is mixed with drilling sand and a soup of chemicals and injected into the shale at high pressure. This fracks the rock and releases the gas that is then transported to markets through pipelines lacing across Arkansas and other states. (Pipelines bring a whole different set of problems. )

Keep in mind that once this water is removed from the surface of the land from streams, ponds, rivers, lakes, municipal water supplies, etc., it is not supposed to be returned to the water supply. Approximately 40 percent to 60 percent that is pumped into the shale comes back up, however, carrying the toxic drilling fluids and can also contain naturally occurring hazardous baddies like mercury, arsenic, radioactive materials, hydrogen sulfide and BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene ). And where does it go ?

The millions of gallons of poisoned water can be re-injected into special deep wells in the hope, with no guarantee, that it will stay in formations away from fresh water aquifers. It is sometimes dumped in open impoundments where its chemicals evaporate into the air. Wherever it goes requires transport, and that exposes it to the environment and us yet again.

Also, oil and gas facilities can release more than 50 toxic air pollutants from a variety of sources, according to a spokesman for the National Resources Defense Council. Yet in Arkansas these wells can be legally sited as close as 100 feet from a home, school, business, etc. Across the nation, wells are being drilled in parks, golf courses, national forests and neighborhoods — anywhere the mineral rights below have been leased is fair game.

“ I’m from the government, and I won’t help you, ” is more what is happening these days, and even scarier is knowing instead that the real help is going to the energy companies so they do not have to worry about pesky pollution details. Federal regulations exempt oil and gas exploration and production from the tough parts of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Super Fund Law, the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act and the Toxic Release Inventory (which would require you be told when or if you are or could be exposed to production toxins ).

From Arkansas’ new millions that mineral owners will pay the state in severance taxes, 95 percent will fund highways and 5 percent will go to the general fund. So far it looks like the environment and human health will again sponsor our energy addiction.

Next time: Will we do anything about this situation ?

Fran Alexander is a local resident and an active environmentalist.

Copyright © 2001-2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact: webmaster@nwanews.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Discovery Farms' program highlighted on its Web site and in Northwest Arkansas Times story

Please click link to read about
Discovery Farms environmental program in Wisconsin

Please click on link to read
Northwest Arkansas Times story on Discovery Farms environmental program in Wisconsin



Dairy farmer discusses program that monitors environmental data
BY TRISH HOLLENBECK Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Tuesday, July 22, 2008
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/nwat/News/67369/
SPRINGDALE — Joe Bragger says he believes farmers and nonfarmers can work together to solve environmental and economic problems.

There are fringe groups out there that will never be happy with anything he does, Bragger, a dairy farmer who also raises chickens and beef cattle on his family’s farm in west-central Wisconsin, said Monday.

But then there are the rest of the people who farmers can work with to get things done, he said in an interview after giving a speech about Wisconsin’s Discovery Farms Program during Arkansas Farm Bureau’s 60 th annual Officers & Leaders Conference at the Holiday Inn in Springdale.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Government protection of wetland pathetic

EPA Enforcement Is Faulted
Agency Official Cites Narrow Reading of Clean Water Act
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 8, 2008; A06
An official administration guidance document on wetland policy is undermining enforcement of the Clean Water Act, said a March 4 memo written by the Environmental Protection Agency's chief enforcement officer.
The memo by Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, was obtained by the advocacy group Greenpeace and released yesterday by two House Democratic committee chairmen. It highlights the confusion that has afflicted federal wetland protections since a 2006 Supreme Court decision.
That 5 to 4 decision, known as Rapanos v. United States, held that the Army Corps of Engineers had exceeded its authority when it denied two Michigan developers permits to build on wetland, but the court split on where the Corps should have drawn the line on what areas deserve protection.
A plurality made of up Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. proposed an across-the-board reduction in the Corps' regulatory role, but Justice Anthony M. Kennedy -- who cast the deciding vote -- called for a case-by-case approach in deciding how the government should proceed. That left the ruling open to interpretation.
In his memo to Benjamin Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water, Nakayama wrote that the document the agency issued in June 2007 to guide regulators' decisions under the Rapanos decision is having "a significant impact on enforcement." Nakayama and his staff concluded that between July 2006 and December 2007, EPA's regional offices had decided not to pursue potential Clean Water Act violations in 304 cases "because of jurisdictional uncertainty."
Much of the controversy centers on what sort of waterway and accompanying wetland should qualify for protection. The administration's guidance instructs federal officials to focus on the "relevant reach" of a tributary, which translates into a single segment of a stream. In the memo, Nakayama argued that this definition "isolates the small tributary" and "ignores longstanding scientific ecosystem and watershed protection principles critical to meeting the goals" of the Clean Water Act.
Chairmen Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee and James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sent a letter yesterday to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson saying they have "grave concerns" about the way the agency is implementing the Clean Water Act.
The two noted that Nakayama concluded that in all, the Supreme Court decision and the subsequent guidance document "negatively affected approximately 500 enforcement cases" in nine months. They also questioned why EPA's Grumbles did not raise the issue when he testified before Oberstar's panel less than three months ago.
"This sudden reduction in enforcement activity will undermine the implementation of the Clean Water Act and adversely affect EPA's responsibility to protect the nation's waters," the congressmen wrote. "Yet instead of sounding the alarm about EPA's enforcement problems, the agency's public statements have minimized the impact of the Rapanos decision."
In response to a question about the congressional inquiry, EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said in an e-mail: "We will be reviewing the new request and will work with the chairmen to provide information on our enforcement program."
Eric Schaeffer, who used to head EPA's civil enforcement division and now heads the Environmental Integrity Project, an advocacy group, called Nakayama's memo "very significant. It lays out very clearly why you can't enforce one of the most important parts of the Clean Water Act."
EPA officials are not the only ones growing frustrated with the confusing legal interpretations of the Rapanos decision. Robert B. Propst, a senior judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division, wrote in a Nov. 7, 2007, decision that he was reassigning a wetland case "to another judge for trial. At least one of the reasons is that I am so perplexed by the way the law applicable to this case has developed that it would be inappropriate for me to try it again."
© 2008 The Washington Post Company
Stormwater Management
Total Stormwater Management Service Design, Repair & Maintenance
www.apexcos.com

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission fails to add carbon dioxide to state list of air contaminants

Panel denies air-code changes
BY MICHELLE HILLEN
Posted on Saturday, June 28, 2008
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/229886/
Saying the request was premature, the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission on Friday unanimously rejected a request by environmental groups to change Arkansas’ air code to consider carbon dioxide an “air contaminant.”
“I do think this is putting the cart before the horse,” commission member Scott Henderson, explaining that he believes the governor’s Global Warming Commission should have first crack at determining how carbon dioxide emissions should be regulated.
The commission, established last year, is studying ways state agencies can offset factors that might contribute to climate change.
“I don’t agree with the discussion about waiting for the federal government to do it, but I do think the Global Warming Commission has to do its work,” Henderson said.

The Arkansas Sierra Club, Audubon Arkansas and the Environmental Integrity Project had filed a petition seeking to amend definitions included in Regulations 18 and 26 of the state’s airquality regulations. The proposal called for the definitions in both regulations to eliminate carbon dioxide from a list of emissions not considered air contaminants, including water vapor, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and inert gases.
The petition cited concerns that increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can lead to higher maximum temperatures, more hot days, higher minimum temperatures, fewer cold days, more intense “precipitation events” and increased risk of drought.
Environmentalists argued their proposal wouldn’t immediately require regulation of carbon dioxide by the Environmental Quality Department. But industry and department officials disagreed.

“We are not opposed to the removal of this exemption.... We realize that global warming is a global problem,” department Director Teresa Marks said. “Our concern is unintended consequences, and the practicality of what we would do if the exemption was removed immediately.”
Marks said existing regulations would require the department to regulate anyone who emits more than 25 tons per year of an “air contaminant.” The department today doesn’t have the technology available to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, she said.
After more than a half-hour of comments from industry leaders and environmentalists, the commission approved an order supplied by the Arkansas Environmental Federation, an organization that lobbies on behalf of companies on environmental matters.
The order states that the request from the environmental- ists was defective for a number of reasons, including that it failed to include an economic impact statement and an environmental benefit analysis. Such statements are required by state law if the proposed change is more stringent than federal requirements.

Glen Hooks, regional representative of the Sierra Club, said he was surprised by the decision.
“I think what these guys have done is stand up and say we know CO 2 is a pollutant, we know it is a contaminant, but we don’t want to do anything about it,” Hooks said.
“They said it publicly, and I found it amazing.”
He said he and other environmentalists expect to bring forward a new petition that addresses the commissioners’ concerns sooner rather than later.
“We’ll be back,” said Ilan Levin of the Environmental Integrity Project.
The concerns can be addressed in a number of ways, including by increasing the allowable emission threshold from 25 tons per year, Levin said.
Copyright © 2001-2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact: webmaster@nwanews.com

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Association for Beaver Lake Environment growing!

From: President@able-ark.org
Sent: Sat 6/28/08 12:51 PM
To: aubreyshepherd@hotmail.com
This is an e-mail from 'Able-Ark.org - Association for Beaver Lake Environment '

Message:
Hello ABLE members,

I wanted to let you know that ABLE hosted a special Town Hall Meeting for Beaver Lake Dock Owners on Monday, June 23, 2008. The purpose of the meeting was to sell ABLE to Beaver Lake property owners, identify/discuss issues affecting and threatening the lake, and to increase ABLE membership. This meeting was very successful! We have signed up many new members, the meeting was standing room only, over 110 people attended!

We also had two guest speakers:
Thad Cheaney from the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers - discussed dock and shoreline issues.
Nathan Jones, VP of Power Source Solar - discussed solar applications on boat docks.

I have posted the program on the website (www.able-ark.org). Login, click on "Information Library" page, and then click on Town Hall Meetings. You will see the "Dock Owners Meeting". You will need Adobe Acrobat in order to view the program.

Thanks for supporting ABLE!

Doug Timmons
President, ABLE

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wetland article ignores drawbacks in wetland mitigation projects but provides valuable insight and source of hope for urban wetland protection


Woolsey wetland article in The Morning News


The Woolsey Prairie is adjacent to land where the new wastewater-treatment plant was built. Actually, the plant was built on what might be called the original Woolsey Prairie.
Because the plant destroyed a great many wetland acres, the Corps of Engineers permit required mitigation. There have been many shows on Government channel about the progress of creating the mitigation area over the past couple of years, mostly as a part of shows on progress of construction of the plant itself.
The good news is that the city is "manufacturing" wetland to make up for destruction. That isn't as good as preserving existing wetland exactly as nature made it. However, it is beautiful site.
The bad news is that a plan to allow developers to "purchase" shares in such mitigation land is similar to trading carbon-pollution rights. It means developers can dredge and fill to build on wetland in the city and "mitigate" it by paying for creation of such sites. This is better than nothing. However, it doesn't protect property from flooding downstream from the development. And it allows valuable habitat to be destroyed where it should be kept. It doesn't make stormwater remain where it falls and soak in to keep vegetation healthy and replenish underground aquifers.
That was the first story I ever read by Skip Descant. He appears to be a good reporter.
He wouldn't likely know about World Peace Wetland Prairie or that "keeping the water where it falls" is the contrasting idea that would have had to have been included in the story if his plan was to write a truly multi-source story.
In fact, WPWP is exactly opposite to a manufactured wetland area. It protects habitat and lets water soak in UPSTREAM where it falls. It was saved from development and stands in stark contrast with the Aspen Ridge/Hill Place development site to to its north.
While it has a large population of nonnative species, particularly fescue and Japanese honeysuckle that require constant volunteer effort to remove, it never had its basic seed and root base of native species removed.
Being inside the city and a part of the headwater system of the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River and thus a significant area that helps protect the Beaver Lake watershed, its soil and plant life (even the invasive nonnative species) are functioning perfectly for stormwater management and protection of water quality.

The already completed Woolsey Prairie serves to catch water NEAR where it falls on the sewage-treatment plant. But adjacent parcels that may be saved as wetland prairie or savannah will be for sale to developers as mitigation for environmentally destruction parcels upstream. That part of the story has been discussed on several Government Channel productions related to the new sewage-treatment plant.

It would be nice to have a map of wetland areas. I frequently offer such information with photos from various parts of the watershed on my blogs and Flickr photo sets. But an overall plan to protect wetland isn't something everyone wants. Such a citywide delineation of wetland areas could prevent developers from buying property that should not be developed on the assumption that they will always get permission to dredge and fill such places simply by buying a share of an already preserved parcel miles away or not even in the same watershed.

Some developers and even some city officials and staff members don't want to acknowledge the existence of more than minimal wetland because public knowledge of the facts of Northwest Arkansas' environment might stifle their desire to build and pave every acre in the city.

More than two years ago, the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association created a booklet with a list of environmentally sensitive areas in the city that the group deemed worthy of protection. That information has never been used by the city in any way, as far as I can tell. During the June 17, 2008, meeting of the Council of Neighborhoods, Bruce Shackleford's presentation on Woolsey Prairie got his ideas out to a lot of people and excited some of the neighborhood advocates to realize the importance of wetland prairie, exactly what we've been trying to do with our photos on Flickr and on our blogspots for the past year and for more than six years on Aubunique.com and for decades in various newspaper and magazine stories.
Fran Alexander and others persevere, but are only voices in the wildnerness, it seems.
Too many of the most outspoken people in the green, "sustainability" movement mostly focus on compromise positions. The paid environmentalists are all about compromise these days. Compromise mostly leads to learning to lose gracefully.
It takes people such as Fran Alexander with passion to get things done. And Shackleford's passion about the prairie wetland can do more to stir fervor in the fight to do the right thing in Fayetteville than some of us have done in decades. A lot of us old "tree-huggers" will be supporting his educational effort in every way we can.
For photos and more information, please use the following online links.

Hill Place/Aspen Ridge set of photos



Pinnacle Prairie set of photos — west side of World Peace Wetland Prairie



World Peace Wetland Prairie collection of sets of photos




Town Branch watershed set of photos

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Everyone will be welcomed!

PLEASE CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Build Hill Place right or don't build it

The maps based on aerial photos below are reasonably new, and people who live in some houses along the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River between Eleventh Street and Fifteenth Street who are paying on mortgages on their homes now have to pay for flood insurance.
A close look at the maps reveals that FEMA now acknowledges not only that many buildings in that stretch are either IN or immediately adjacent to the acknowledged flood plain but also that much of the infrastructure for the failed Aspen Ridge site was built in the flood plain between Sixth and Eleventh streets west of South Hill Avenue.
People who have lived in the neighborhood a long time know that the actual floodplain is much wider in places than the FEMA map shows.
While the developers of the Hill Place project are being required to remove a sewer line and blocks much of the flow under the bridge at Eleventh Street, they have not been told to build their proposed traffic bridge higher than the current walkiing bridge. In fact, they are proposing to build the traffic bridge LOWER than the walking bridge built in 2005 or 2006 across the stream. Because federal agencies will barely even look at the plans, the city must make the decision on this further construction in the floodplain.
In 2003 and 2004, the developers claimed that FEMA maps did not show floodplain in the area. Neighbors pointed out that the Town Branch FLOWED OVER much of that land frequently even though the government had not designated it as floodplain and that, not only did the stream flow over the bridge at Eleventh Street but sometimes flowed over the bridge at Fifteenth Street.
Just another example of NIMBIES being ignored in favor of developers and builders who don't care what harm their projects might do as long as they are able to reach the density level required to make a huge profit. People who say "Not in my backyard" in this neighborhood have seen the water there (and some have seen it in their houses or flowing in front of their houses); so they aren't talking about a trivial problem.
The lowest portion of the former wooded wetland at the southeast end of the project must be dug out and structured to pre-Aspen Ridge grade or lower to reapproach the historical flood-prevention capacity of that land.
No further paving should be done southeast of the existing walking bridge and the impervious fill dirt should be removed and water again should be allowed to soak into appropriate organic soil.
Developers claim their right to build as long as their project doesn't send more water off their land than flowed off there before.
They use voodoo mathematics that ignore overflow from the Town Branch and that ignore the nearly 100 percent permeability of the surface of the area before it was cleared and filled with rocky dirt and red clay.
They rely on the fact that water has threatened the downstream homes a little more each year during the decades the University of Arkansas has filled similar land on the campus and covered or dredged absorbent soil on the campus in favor of non-absorbent, non-organic soil and concrete.
Now is the time to begin to require developments to DECREASE downstream flooding, not aggravate it and blame the university for its building practices. Multiple wrong decisions don't add up to a right decision.

Monday, May 12, 2008

FEMA floodplain map of Aspen Ridge/Hill Place and streets downstream

Please click on image to ENLARGE.

Please click on image to ENLARGE.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Fayetteville City Council to visit Town Branch Neighborhood development sites at 4 p.m. today. Everyone welcome. Need tax on topsoil removal

The mayor and members of the Fayetteville City Council are to gather at the failed Aspen Ridge town-house construction site near W. Sixth Street and S. Hill Avenue at 4:30 p.m. today (Monday, May 5, 2008 ) to view the 30-acre parcel from which nearly all the trees and topsoil have been removed. The rich, fertile, stormwater-absorbing, water-purifying soil has been either dredged out and hauled away or buried under tons of less-absorbent rocky soil.

Tuesday at 6 p.m., the council is to evaluate a plan that has been brought forward by Hank Broyles, who sold his share of the Aspen Ridge property to his partner in that venture, Hal Forsyth, soon after it was approved in 2005, but who bought the whole parcel after Forsyth's development ended with hundreds of low-income residents displaced but nothing built on the property.

Slimy, yellow silt-laden muddy water has overflowed from the failed Aspen Ridge site onto the north end of World Peace Wetland Prairie ever since that 30 acres' vegetation was removed and the soil replaced with non-absorbent soil. The Hill Place student apartment plan and the Summit Place plan must manage silt and stormwater properly or both WPWP and the Town Branch will be further damaged.

Broyles' new plan is to sell the property to
Place Properties, limited partnership
, which develops and manages apartment complexes for college students in several states. The sale, apparently, is contingent on Broyles' getting the student-apartment plan approved by the council.

Please see
Summit Place, Hill Place maps and photos
with first plans for Summit Place that were submitted to the Fayetteville planning department early this year.

Please see
Hill Place/Aspen Ridge plans, maps and photos
with concept drawing from January 2008.

Town Branch neighbors are asking that the Summit Place plan be evaluated by the council before the council approves the Hill Place plan. Water from the eastern slope of Summit Place on Rochier Hill will increase erosion and further exacerbate the stormwater problems created by the Aspen Ridge land clearing and now the problem of the Hill Place project. Appian Design Center
Hill Place/Summit Place plan designers
is planning both projects. Hank Broyles and John Nock reportedly own the Summit Place property.

The Summit Place project west of the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad is in Ward Four, while the Hill Place project is in Ward One.
As in the case of many adjacent projects, these are separate but the upstream work will have a bearing on the downstream project's success in protecting people further downstream on the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River from flooding as well as an effect on the quality of water entering Beaver Lake, the water supply for most of Northwest Arkansas.
For details, please call 479-444-6072.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Please volunteer April 19 to help give away oak trees in Fayetteville and Rogers

From Dina Nash of the Arkansas Sierra Club:
The Arkansas Forestry Commission asked if the Sierra Club would like to do a tree give-away project: They have 50,000 extra 3-foot-tall oak trees (Willow oaks, Water oaks, Shumard oaks, and Pin oaks) and they'd like to give them away.  I said yes, and we very much need your members to volunteer some hours to help take these little trees out of the paper bundle of 100 trees, put 1 or 2 in a bag, tape the top of the bag with masking tape, and give them to people who will promise to water them once or twice a week for several months so they will get a good start.

So if you have 3 or more hours to help give away trees to help global warming, please email or call me ASAP, so I can plan who'll be there to take care of the give-away table:

    Location:  Wal-Mart on Mall Drive at Joyce Street, a block west of College.
                   Near the Garden Center
                   10 AM-4 PM  (3 hour shifts, 10-1 and 1-4, or the whole 6 hours)
                   Three people per shift, some bagging, some taping, and some
                     handing out trees and putting the planting info sheet with them

                   An easy way to green up some bare places you may know of, too.
                   Take some home to your yard, church, school, or farm!  Give some
                   to neighbors who lost a tree in a storm, etc.
There are also openings at the Rogers Wal-Mart on Walnut Street on the l9th!!
Thanks so much for making this a success: please call me at 530-8328 My cell phone is in the 479 area code so Fayetteville friends don't need to make a long-distance call to reach me in Little Rock.  Or you can email me at Dina_Nash@yahoo.com .

Thanks,
Dina Nash, Vice Pres. Central AR Sierra Club
479-530-8328 
Little Rock

If you can't reach Dina, you may call Aubrey Shepherd at 479-444-6072 for information. You need not be a Sierra Club member to participate.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008

Gov. Beebe addresses joint session of Arkansas General Assembly

JOINT SESSION of the Arkansas legislature

Governor Mike Beebe addressed a joint session of the 86th Arkansas General Assembly today.
Governor Beebe Addresses Joint Session

Thank you Mr. Speaker and Mr. President for the invitation to address this joint session of the 86th General Assembly convening for this extraordinary session.
First, let me offer my thanks to all of you for responding to the call, for setting aside your personal and business interests and returning to the Capitol to take up the people’s business once again.
The privilege of service requires some sacrifice because this is a citizen legislature.
And this group has already proven how effective a group of citizens, working together to find solutions to complex problems, can be.
This 86th General Assembly has addressed, to the great benefit of the people of Arkansas, two of this State’s longest-standing, public-policy challenges:
You have approved a budget that sets us firmly on the path toward providing excellence in education for our children, and in doing so earned our release from court supervision and placed us firmly on the path toward excellence in our public schools.
You have cut in half the state’s most punitive and regressive tax, the sales tax on groceries.
Either of these achievements would have been sufficient to mark this group as one of the most accomplished in recent history, but your determination in tackling both issues is a feat of which this group can be very proud.
Today, you come together to address another policy question of historic significance to Arkansas.
At three-tenths of 1 cent per thousand cubic feet, Arkansas’s severance tax on natural gas provides inadequate compensation to the people of this State for the removal of such a valuable, non-renewable natural resource.
Legislators and Governors have wrestled with this issue unsuccessfully for more than 50 years.
We’re a small state, historically poor. Attracting outside investment and economic activity has always been a high priority, and our abundant natural resources have been our greatest lure.
But I believe that in our effort to be hospitable to business interests we have undervalued our resources – particularly our natural gas. They are rare, they are precious and they can only be sold once.
We speak often of managing our natural resources to the benefit of future generations of Arkansans; and in this case, it has never been more important for us to keep our word.
We are selling an asset, and removing it from the Arkansas that future generations will inherit. We must remember that we are negotiating on their behalf and ensure that we are receiving just compensation that can be invested for the benefit of Arkansans – both present and future.
Now, there is a balance that must be struck: The development of the Fayetteville shale play is already paying huge dividends to our State, and we can’t afford to discourage the billions in investment that we anticipate in the coming years.
The jobs alone will generate billions of dollars in economic activity and create millions in additional revenue for the State.
My goal throughout the negotiations with the industry has been to find that middle ground; to provide a solution that is fair to Arkansans but that does not create a disincentive for the investment that the industry is making in our state.
The bill that has been submitted for your consideration does both, and I ask that you give it your support.
This proposal is a rare opportunity to create a new funding source for highway improvement in Arkansas without increasing the tax burden on the majority of everyday Arkansans.
Highways are critical to our economic-development strategy: Good roads are one of the most important things government can provide as incentive for job creation and business investment.
While this solution will not erase the funding gap we face in addressing our highway needs, it will provide much needed capital for maintenance and repair – especially of our bridges – as well as expansion and new construction where we need it most.
We cannot forget that these projects create economic expansion and jobs for our people as well.
I’ve been told, many times, and I know many of you have heard as well, that the money that we appropriated for highways in last year’s general session allowed many contractors to run full crews through the summer – providing both needed highway repairs and jobs for Arkansans.
So this bill is not an “either-or” proposition.
We are encouraging the gas industry to continue to invest in exploration and production, and at the same time creating new economic activity in the construction industry.
It’s a prudent, targeted approach designed to turn one economic windfall into additional expansion of our State’s economy.
Opportunities such as this one appear very infrequently, so when they do arrive, we must make the most of them.
You have already made historic strides toward excellent education for our children and tax relief on the necessities of life for everyday Arkansans.
I call upon you to take one more step, one that 24 legislatures before you could not take, but one that will benefit all Arkansans today, and help build a strong infrastructure for the Arkansas of tomorrow.

Vice Mayor Jordan asks legislators to pass severance tax

Severance Tax

As cities work hard to provide comprehensive transportation programs and fund needed projects, I support Governor Beebe’s natural gas severance tax proposal recently announced by the Governors office. Raising over 14.5 million annually in tax revenues for the municipal aid fund — would allow these severance tax revenues to go towards targeted city streets and an equally a similar amount for county roads thus reducing the further tax burdens on communities like Fayetteville. This is just another step in diversifying available revenues outside of local sales tax collections. I support this severance tax, and below is the communications I sent to our locally elected officials.

I am writing to encourage you to support and vote for Governor Beebe’s proposed legislation to increase the state severance tax on natural gas and dedicate 95% of the revenue as special revenues to be distributed as provided by the Arkansas Highway Revenue Distribution Law, § 27-70-201 et seq. Our constituents deserve a safe and efficient public transportation system, and I know that you share my commitment to doing all we can to achieve that result.

No one can deny that our transportation needs are great nor that the funding for our transportation system in Northwest Arkansas is inadequate to met those needs. As a member of the City Council and as Chair of the Street Committee, I am well aware of both the transportation needs and the construction costs for well designed streets. This legislation will not solve all of our transportation problems, but the revenue would be a significant contribution toward that goal.

Governor Beebe's proposal would generate an estimated $57 million next year and about $100 million annually by 2012. If 95 percent of that revenue is distributed under the Highway Revenue Distribution law, it eventually will mean an additional $14.25 million annually for the Municipal Aid Fund for streets and an additional $14.25 annually for the County Aid Fund for county roads, as well as an additional $66.5 million for state highways.

Thank you for your consideration of my request that you support this important legislation in the upcoming Special Session. I appreciate your dedication to public service, and I look forward to working with you on other issues of mutual concern in the future.

Sincerely,
Lioneld Jordan
1600 Arrowhead
Fayetteville , AR 72701

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette says Governor calls special legislative session to pass severance tax

Governor calls special session
BY SETH BLOMELEY
Posted on Thursday, March 27, 2008
Gov. Mike Beebe issued the proclamation late Wednesday calling the 86 th General Assembly into special session starting Monday at noon to raise the severance tax on natural gas.
The proclamation, commonly referred to as the “call,” states that Arkansas is “rich in natural resources that enhance the economic well-being” but that they must be removed “responsibly and with the appropriate returns to the people.” Beebe, a Democrat, said earlier in the day that he now has 32 votes in the 35-member Senate to pass the tax and 81 votes in the 100-member House.
The measure has bipartisan support with at least six of the eight Republican senators signaling their support and about a dozen likely House yes votes from GOP members.
The administration has forecast that as much as $ 100 million a year could be received from the tax within a few years.
Beebe has said he wants to put 95 percent of that money toward state highways, and city and county roads. The other 5 percent could go for state general revenue.
The tax now collects about $ 660, 000 a year and is based on the volume of gas extracted. Beebe’s plan would make its market value a factor in the tax rate.
Natural-gas production companies pay the tax and will deduct a proportion of the money royalty owners get from them to help pay the tax. The percentage will depend on the percentage of returns that the royalty owners receive, usually about one-eighth.
Natural-gas experts have said the tax won’t be passed on to utility customers’ bills. Beebe’s plan contains a number of exemptions for new wells and for existing wells with low production. They will pay a rate that will be lower than the new rate but higher than the existing one.
Beebe has said some people wanted a higher tax and some wanted a smaller tax and that the final rate and exemptions in his plan were results of compromise with the industry.
Without that compromise, Beebe has said the tax couldn’t get through the Legislature. Under Amendment 19 to the state constitution, the rate of the severance tax cannot be raised apart from approval by the voters in an election or, in an emergency, by a three-fourths majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate. That would be 27 votes in the Senate, 75 in the House.
There are four other items on the special-session agenda.
One has to do with a marriage law passed in 2007 that left open the possibility that girls of any age could get married with their parents’ consent. Legislators have said that wasn’t their intent. Beebe said he’d like to strike that law and defer the cleanup in the state’s marriage-age laws to the 2009 regular session, which will begin in January.
Another issue has to do with a 2007 law that allows Pulaski County school districts to receive state dollars to offset legal fees if the districts are declared by a federal judge to be “unitary” (meeting desegregation requirements ). The law sets a June deadline, and Beebe would like to extend the deadline to November because a federal judge needs more time to consider the matter. Beebe expects the special session to last no more than three days, which is the minimum time needed to pass legislation and follow constitutional requirements in doing so.
Special sessions are generally short. Governors set their agendas and usually try to seek consensus from the Legislature beforehand to avoid drawn-out debate that could kill legislation and end up being a waste of time.
The longest special session in modern times was during the winter of 2003-04 when education funding was the topic. It lasted 61 days.
Special sessions cost the House and Senate about $ 25,000 a day combined, according to the estimates of legislative employees.
The proclamation’s agenda also calls for appropriations to pay the expenses of the special session and to confirm gubernatorial appointments. Hundreds of appointments await consideration, according to Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample.
Arkansas’ severance tax is three-tenths of 1 cent per 1, 000 cubic feet of gas. Set in 1957, it doesn’t take into account growth in the price of gas, which has greatly increased since then.
Beebe’s tax would be 5 percent on the proceeds production companies get on the sale of the gas, minus the cost of delivery.
Natural-gas industry experts have said the cost wouldn’t be passed on to customers’ utility bills because the price utilities pay production companies is largely set by the national market.
The plan calls for a 36-month reduced rate of 1. 5 percent for high-cost new wells and a 24-month reduced rate of 1. 5 percent for all other new wells. Another reduced rate of 1. 25 percent is possible indefinitely for low-producing wells, new or old.
Beebe announced Friday that he would call the special session.
Information for this article was contributed by Charlie Frago and Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Majority of gas wells qualify for exemption under Beebe's tax plan

Majority of [Gas] wells qualify for exemptions under Beebe's tax plan

Last Update: 3/25 8:29 am

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - The vast majority of the Arkansas' natural gas wells qualify for exemptions reducing their tax rates under a severance tax proposal to be considered at a special session later this month, according to state data.
Only 5 percent of the state's wells are classified as wells that would pay the full tax rate that has been proposed by Gov. Mike Beebe as a way to fund additional highway improvements, according to numbers provided by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration and the state Oil and Gas Commission.
Beebe last week announced that he would call a special session beginning March 31 to consider raising the tax for the first time since 1957, saying he has more than enough votes necessary in both chambers to pass the tax hike. Beebe's proposal would place a 5 percent base tax on gas-sale proceeds received by producers with lowered rates for some wells. Passing the tax hike requires 27 votes in the Senate and 75 in the House.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Danger of injecting chemicals beneath ground on drilling sites

From: Sue Skidmore [mailto:sue@hon-our-earth.net]
Sent: Monday, March 10, 2008 3:28 AM
To: MO-MultiIssue@yahoogroups. com; MO Rural Crisis Center; MPC
Subject: hideous
Importance: High

From: Tom Kruzen [mailto:kruzen3@hotmail.com]
Friends,
This article was posted on www.grassrootsozark.net by our Heartwood friend, Shawn Porter in Arkansas. He alerted us to not only this practice of injecting into groundwater such toxic and carcinogenic chemicals as diesel, benzene, xylene, toluene and ethyl benzene to bring up natural gas but that the USDA Forest Service may allow this practice in the newly proposed oil and gas drilling in the Quachita and Ozark National Forests in Arkansas. This hideous idea allegedly came from the demented mind of dick cheney while he was at Halliburton. Please read the article, funnel your rage to the appropriate political leaders below and think of ways to stop this! Please pass this article on to everyone you know!
-Tom Kruzen, volunteer
Missouri Water Sentinels
The River Reporter
Narrowsburg, New York
March 6-12, 2008
Congress investigates possible water contamination caused by gas well drilling
Local group considers legal action
By TOM KANE
UNITED STATES — Gas drilling companies in the nation are being accused of injecting toxic chemicals into the ground without government or industry oversight.
The U.S. House of Representative’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used in the creation of gas wells, which allegedly has caused contamination of the drinking water in several locations around the country. In the fracking process, water, sand and other materials are injected deep into underground wells at high pressure to force out gas, which can then be recovered.
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the committee, began hearings on October 31, 2007 on the subject of diesel fuel and other toxic chemicals being mixed into the fracking fluid. He also sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) asking if the EPA was effectively monitoring a 2003 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that was intended to eliminate these injections into the underground sources of drinking water.
Waxman said in the October memo that while the EPA claimed that it was actively monitoring the drilling, “the basis for your statement appears to be less than impressive: a hastily collected set of three e-mails amounting to just half a dozen sentences.”
In the hearings Waxman held, a succession of scientists—a medical toxicologist, a national recognized endocrinologist, a member of Trout Unlimited, a senior policy analyst of a national defense council and several landowners—claimed that gas companies not only injected diesel fuel into the fracking liquid as a part of their drilling, but also injected benezine, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene into the liquid, which in turn contaminated drinking water, causing serious physical ailments in residents.
The Waxman hearings
According to Chemical and Engineering News, which reported on the hearings in a February 8 article, hearing witness Dr. Theo Colborn, a Ph D. in zoology and president of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, a non-profit group that focuses on health problems from low-dose chemical exposures, said, “The toxic chemicals are employed for fracturing operations and are added to alter the underground strata to allow methane to escape up the well pipe. We have identified 171 products used in Colorado containing altogether 245 different chemicals, 92 percent of which have adverse health effects.”
Dr. Daniel T. Teitelbaum, an occupational physician and toxicologist, in testimony before the committee, said, “There is no data base of those exposed as workers or as residents near the extraction or processing. Although there have been documented health complaints by residents, no government agency has asked for an investigation,” he said. “The fact that neither government nor industry has undertaken these critical exposure/outcome health studies is inexcusable.”
Lack of oversight
Opponents of the drilling process claim that the lack of oversight goes back to an energy policy meeting convened by Vice President Dick Cheney, held back from Congressional oversight, that recommended that Congress exempt hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. The exemption was passed as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Halliburton, of which Cheney is a former CEO, created the fracking technique.
At the time, an editorial comment from the Oil and Gas Accountability Project (www.ogap.org), a non-profit group with the mission of working with tribal, urban and rural communities to protect their homes and the environment, made the following report after studying the procedure of fracturing: “The National Energy Bill currently pending before the Congress includes this exemption. If passed, states, municipalities, and individual property owners will have to bear the burden of any clean-up, health risk and loss of property values associated with ground-water contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing.”
Local opposition
A group of residents and friends called Damascus Citizens for Self Government have been attempting to educate residents on the dangers that can accompany gas drilling and fracturing. Upon learning of the Waxman hearing alleging the dangers of the widespread practice of fracturing, the group has contacted renowned environmental attorney Richard Lippes, who served as counsel to plaintiffs of the famous Love Canal case.
“We are in conversation with Mr. Lippes and are examining our options at this time,” said Barbara Arrindell, a spokesperson for the group..
“I have agreed to represent the group and to investigate if the option of going to court would be useful,” Lippes said. “Oil and gas drilling may adversely affect the local environment and we would do whatever is necessary to provide protection to the people and their property.”
Lippes also represents the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition in its fight against the New York Regional Interconnect’s proposal to build a power line through the area.
Representative Henry A. Waxman (D - 30)
DC Phone: 202-225-3976
DC Fax: 202-225-4099
Email: http://www.house.gov/waxman/contact.htm
Bond, Christopher S.- (R - MO)
274 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
202) 224-5721
Web Form: bond.senate.gov/contact/contactme.cfm
McCaskill, Claire- (D – MO
717 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
202) 224-6154
Web Form: mccaskill.senate.gov/contact.cfm
Lincoln, Blanche L.- (D - AR
355 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
202 224-4843
Web Form: lincoln.senate.gov/webform.html
Pryor, Mark L.- (D - AR)
255 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
202) 224-2353
Web Form: pryor.senate.gov/contact/
Obama, Barack- (D – IL
713 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
202) 224-2854
Web Form: obama.senate.gov/contact/
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D- NY)
Phone: 202-228-0282
Fax: 202-224-4451
http://clinton.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm
McCain, John- (R - AZ
241 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
202) 224-2235
Web Form: mccain.senate.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=Contact.Home
To find out your legislators, go to:
http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/cgi-bin/newseek.cgi?site=ctc&state=ny