In rural West Virginia, largely hidden among steep hills, stands a $255 million facility designed to transform fracking waste into freshwater and food grade quality salts. Proponents hailed it as one of the most important environmental projects undertaken by the oil and gas industry in recent U.S. history. But local conservation groups and residents remained skeptical from the start, warning that the plant could leak toxic waste into water and air, harming human health and ecosystems in a largely forested region where tight-knit communities live close to the land. The facility, called Clearwater, was built by the Denver, Colorado-based oil and gas extraction company, Antero Resources, and an affiliate of Veolia, the multinational French waste, water and energy management company.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking,” is a process where shale and other types of impermeable rock are blasted open with water, “fracking fluid” and sand in order to access and extract oil and natural gas. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, fracking fluid contains chemical additives, the identities of which have often been shielded from disclosure on the basis that they are “confidential business information” or trade secrets. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified 1,084 different reported chemicals used in fracking from 2005 to 2013.
For more than 20 years, Columbia Riverkeeper has fought dirty fossil fuel infrastructure — and won. Together with firefighters, fishers, foresters, farmers, health professionals, educators, union leaders, and tribes, we stopped more than a dozen proposed fossil fuel facilities, ranging from coal exports to LNG terminals. Because of our success, the fossil fuel industry has begun trying to expand existing infrastructure rather than build new facilities. What’s the difference? Existing infrastructure typically has some of the required permits, and regulators generally approve capacity expansions even where they might reject a new project.
Environmental and community groups in Ohio have filed a preliminary injunction to stop the leasing of public lands — including state parks — to the oil and gas industry. Ohio HB 507, which redefines methane gas as “green energy” and requires state parks to lease their lands for fracking, went into effect on April 7. Originally an agricultural bill with its focus on poultry, the law was quickly expanded to include granting petrochemical, agricultural and fracking rights to industry. The groups oppose the law on a constitutional basis, in addition to their objection to the obligatory leasing of public lands for fracking, a press release from Earthjustice and the Sierra Club said.
Longhorn Pad C is located about half a mile south of a small cemetery and a little over a mile north of a Methodist church in Elk County, in northwestern Pennsylvania. With a population of around 30,000, this county sits squarely in the center of the path the Marcellus Shale formation takes as it curves through the commonwealth. The lonely well pad houses four natural gas wells that records show were initially drilled in 2011 but sat inactive for years after that. Now, it also houses infrastructure designed to mine cryptocurrency, which, according to a comment filed by the surrounding township’s Board of Supervisors, hums loudly enough to have solicited numerous noise complaints from residents.
The reality of the climate crisis makes it clear that we must leave the “oil in the soil” and the “gas under the grass,” as the Oilwatch International slogan goes. The fossil fuel industry knew this before anyone else. Yet the industry continues to seek new extractive frontiers on all continents in what has been labeled a “fracking frenzy” by campaigners. In Australia, unconventional fossil gas exploration has been on the rise over the last two decades. Coal seam gas wells have been in production since 2013, while community resistance has so far prevented the threat of shale gas fracking.
A federal appeals court yesterday rejected the Biden administration’s defense of unchecked oil and gas fracking in the Greater Chaco region of northwest New Mexico, ruling the U.S. Interior Department flouted the law when approving 199 drilling permits in the culturally significant landscape. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit is being hailed as a victory for Tribal and environmental groups who have worked for years to defend the landscape from rampant oil and gas extraction. With Chaco Canyon at its heart, the Greater Chaco region is a living and ancient cultural landscape, spanning northwest New Mexico, southwest Colorado, southeast Utah, and northeast Arizona. Today, Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the Western Hemisphere.
A trade advisor to the UK government has repeated a baseless claim that protests against fracking were funded by the Kremlin. Economist Catherine McBride, a member of the government’s Trade and Agriculture Commission advising on trade deals, said on GB News this week that Russia has given “billions of pounds” to green groups to “go and protest against fracking”. As DeSmog has reported previously, this claim has been promoted by opponents of climate action following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine despite there being no evidence to support it. Her remarks come after 24 MPs signed a letter last week organised by Net Zero Watch, the campaign arm of the climate science-denying Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), urging the government to scrap its moratorium on fracking for shale gas.
On Thursday, Colombian environmental defenders rejected a decision whereby the Council of State facilitates oil exploitation through hydraulic fracturing (fracking). "The decision disregards the environmental precautionary principle and the risk of serious and irreversible damage that this experimental technique represents for human environment, health, and integrity," the Fracking Free Colombia Alliance (ACLF) stressed. “Fracking is dangerous in the context of the climate crisis and openly inconsistent with the international commitments acquired by Colombia,” it recalled. The ACLF also recalled that the implementation of this technique will increase risks to the lives of environmental defenders and Indigenous peoples in Magdalena Medio, "a territory that has suffered oil exploitation and armed violence for more than a century."
Travis Dardar, an indigenous fisherman in Cameron, Louisiana, has a front-row view of the expansion of the liquified natural gas (LNG) industry’s export capacity on the Gulf Coast — and it isn’t pretty. “It disgusts me what man is doing to the planet,” Dardar told me as I photographed flares at the recently built Venture Global Calcasieu Pass LNG export facility from his boat out in the Calcasieu Ship Channel, which empties into the Gulf of Mexico. I met Travis and his wife Nicole Dardar on March 17, before attending an air quality permit hearing held by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) in Cameron for another proposed LNG export project by Commonwealth LNG, a Texas-based company. The couple wasn’t aware of the permit hearing for Commonwealth LNG’s new export terminal project until I mentioned it to them.
In her documentary “Hard Road of Hope,” independent filmmaker Eleanor Goldfield details the history and contemporary struggles of West Virginians living and dying in coal country. As part of our coverage commemorating the Battle of Blair Mountain centennial, we are screening “Hard Road of Hope” for a limited time on the TRNN YouTube channel (watch it now here). In this complementary interview, TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez talks with Goldfield about the urgency of the issues detailed in her documentary, and about how the gas industry, which employs environmentally destructive practices like fracking, is picking up where the coal industry left off and continuing the exploitation of the people and resources of West Virginia. To see more of Goldfield’s work, visit https://artkillingapathy.com/.
Santa Fe, NM—WildEarth Guardians announced this week its intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its failure to crack down on smog pollution in the Permian Basin of southeast New Mexico, where unchecked fracking is taking a dangerous toll on clean air. “Despite the Biden administration’s promises to put public health first, the oil and gas industry is getting a free ride to pollute the Permian Basin and undermine clean air,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “The Environmental Protection Agency needs to stop dragging its feet and start helping people.” In the face of booming oil and gas extraction, levels of ground-level ozone–the key ingredient of smog–have violated federal health standards in southeastern New Mexico.
A new study correlates poorer surface water quality with nearby hydraulic fracturing but finds that the impacts aren’t major enough to be considered harmful by federal regulators. However, the researchers noted they weren’t able to study “potentially more dangerous” substances related to fracking because of a lack of data. While some published studies have already linked groundwater contamination with hydraulic fracking activity, one of the researchers behind the study, Christian Leuz of the University of Chicago, said through a press release that their work was the “first large-sample evidence showing that hydraulic fracturing is related to the quality of nearby surface waters for several U.S. shales.” The study, published in the journal Science, found “small but consistent” increases in the concentration of nonbiodegradable salts in watersheds where new hydraulic fracturing activities were taking place.
For over a month, noxious wastewater has been leaching across the ground on Ashley Watt’s family ranch in the Permian Basin in West Texas where she lives and raises cattle. It started in mid-June, when a well Chevron Corps drilled in the 1960s (and plugged with cement in the 1990s before abandoning it) burst open. The well spewed what Watt described on Twitter as “super concentrated brine and benzene” into her water supply, the Pecos River Basin alluvial aquifer. After a month on site, according to Watt, Chevron plugged the well on July 16, but it failed a pressure test and continued bubbling brine at the surface again just over an hour later. Two calves and four cows have died, as Bloomberg News reported, and the well continues to spray onto the sandy land, where the water table is just over 50 feet below ground.
This week two major publications were released that highlight public health impacts on people living next to oil and gas operations. The Environmental Health News released their investigation looking at how chemicals associated with oil and gas are present at levels 90 times higher than the average in families’ urine, including samples from children. The New Yorker published “When the Kids Started Getting Sick” by Eliza Griswold, a deep dive on the increase in rare bone cancers in the region. These articles highlight the reality of so many in our communities, and because they reflect that lived reality, they hit home. For that reason, this blog goes a bit beyond simply providing information.