One of the first lessons everyone has to learn in life is the meaning of “no.” As in, there are some things you just shouldn’t do because of the consequences and harm to others.
By seeking to drill any time, anywhere, the oil and gas industry clearly doesn’t think this concept applies to them. Unfortunately, Earthworks and its partners recently lost a legal battle to show them it does, and to make sure that public agencies put the public interest ahead of corporate interests.
In late April, a US District Court judge in Florida ruled that the National Park Service (NPS) hadn’t violated federal environmental laws when it decided Burnett Oil could conduct seismic testing for oil in the Big Cypress National Preserve.
Earlier this year, the natural gas industry declared in an exuberant report that new pipelines will “uncork” the production bottleneck and create a second boom in Utica and Marcellus Shale development.
This vision is currently on stark display in Pennsylvania and Ohio. On a recent trip for Earthworks’ Community Empowerment Project, a colleague and I were dismayed to see pipeline cuts and compressor station scarring the landscape—including in areas absent of such activity several months ago.
Residents and advocates gathered at the Pennsylvania State Capitol this week with a clear message to legislators: it’s high time to support measures to prevent gas industry pollution, and folly to try and block them.
Over a year ago, PA Governor Tom Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) rolled out a strategy to reduce methane emissions, emphasizing risks to both health and the climate. But industry efforts to stop broader oil and gas regulations from taking effect delayed any progress on new methane control measures.
This week, the Trump Administration suggested slashing the budgets of some government agencies, in particular the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Around the same time, Earthworks released an in-depth report on how air pollution can be made worse in the absence of federal law and EPA oversight.
The report, Permitted to Pollute: How oil and gas operators and regulators exploit clean air protections and put the public at risk, is the result of more than a year of research focusing on three natural gas processing and transmission facilities in southwestern Pennsylvania.
When elected officials bow and scrape to the oil and gas industry, they often use the false rhetoric of “job killing” and “burdensome” regulations. Last week, the inappropriately-named Jim Justice, Governor of West Virginia, didn’t even bother with that smokescreen.
According to investigative coverage by the Charleston Gazette, Gov. Justice recently ordered the Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) to kill a requirement that protects residents from the noise and light caused by oil and gas operations.
Since the onset of the fracking boom nearly a decade ago, the oil and gas industry has fought to prevent effective state oversight of its Pennsylvania operations. The Marcellus Shale Coalition’s (MSC) current lawsuit to block updated regulations (Chapter 78A) for shale wells is a clear signal that industry has no plans to change its usual, harmful tune.
With state palns in development to cut oil and gas methane pollution, as well as anti-environmental bills in the legislature, Pennsylvanians can only hope that Governor Wolf and legislative leaders have finally learned their lesson: always put the public interest first, and don’t believe industry’s false promises.
Whatever the cause and however extensive, a fire’s sheer destructive power always captures attention. The recent explosion and fire at a New Mexico oil field quickly grabbed headlines with images of roiling flames, thick smoke, and stories of residents forced to evacuate. Concerns remain about air quality, the lack of any evacuation plan, and health as WPX Energy, owner of the site, let the fire burn itself out—releasing toxins into the air in the process.
It’s logical and not that unusual for a drilling site to catch fire; both oil and natural gas are highly combustible and flammable. Yet the photos from the New Mexico fire reveal that several tanks used to store waste were also burning intensely.
Thanks to a bill passed this June by the state legislature, Pennsylvania now has the dubious distinction of being the only state in the nation to abandon oil and gas regulations after they’ve been fully developed and publicly reviewed. While other states have modernized oil and gas oversight in the wake of the shale boom, no other state has exempted a major part of the oil and gas industry in the process.