Texas Drought Cost $2 Billion More than Previously Thought

Texas Drought Cost $2 Billion More than Previously Thought
March 21, 2012, Huffington Post

HOUSTON — Agriculture officials say losses from Texas’ historic drought are more than $2 billion more than previously thought.

The Texas AgriLife Extension Service now estimates crop and livestock losses at $7.62 billion for 2011. The extension service’s preliminary estimate of $5.2 billion in August already topped the previous record of $4.1 billion in 2006.

Extension service spokesman Blair Fannin gave The Associated Press the data on losses Wednesday before it was publicly released.

Texas has a long history of drought. Since 1998, it has cost the state’s agriculture industry more than $14 billion.

2011 was the driest year in state history.

Mortgages for Drilling Properties May Face Hurdles

In a March 18, 2012 New York Times article, “Mortgages for Drilling Properties May Face Hurdles”, Ian Urbina reported that the Department of Agriculture is considering requiring an extensive environmental review before issuing mortgages to people who have leased their land for oil and gas drilling.  This proposal by the Agriculture Department reflects a growing concern that lending to owners of properties with drilling leases might violate the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA, which requires environmental reviews before federal money is spent. For more about the problems homeowners may face when trying to get a mortgage on land with a gas lease, please see our “Mortgage Problems” section.

 

Low doses of endocrine disruptors can have big effects

Low doses, big effects: Scientists seek ‘fundamental changes’ in testing, regulation of hormone-like chemicals
March 15, 2012, Environmental Health News
Maria Cone

Small doses of chemicals that are endocrine disruptors, which have been identified as being present in fracking fluid can have big health effects. That is a main finding of a new report, three years in the making, published on March 14, 2012 by a team of 12 scientists who study hormone-altering chemicals. Dozens of substances that can mimic or block hormones are found in the environment, the food supply and consumer products, including plastics, pesticides and cosmetics. One of the biggest controversies is whether the tiny doses that most people are exposed to are harmful. Researchers led by Tufts University’s Laura Vandenberg concluded after examining hundreds of studies that health effects “are remarkably common” when people or animals are exposed to low doses. “Fundamental changes in chemical testing are needed to protect human health,” they wrote.

America’s Fossil Fuel Fever

America’s Fossil Fuel Fever
March 19, 2012, The Nation
Michael T. Klare

This article explains why our nation’s push to use unconventional methods such as hydraulic fracturing to get fossil fuels will actually make us more vulnerable in the long run because it will postpone the ineveitable transition to a postcarbon economy.  It says, “sooner or later, the economic, environmental and climate consequences of intensive fossil fuel use will force everyone on the planet to abandon reliance on these fuels in favor of climate-friendly renewables. This is not a matter of if but of when. The longer we wait, the more costly and traumatic the transition will be, and the greater the likelihood that our economy will fall behind those of other countries that undertake the transition sooner. By extending our dependence on fossil fuels, therefore, the current oil and gas revival is not an advantage but, as Obama said in 2008, a threat to national security.”

Falling prices devastate boom towns

March 14, 2012, Greenwire
As the price of natural gas falls to a 10-year low, energy companies are fleeing gas fields across the country and leaving behind areas that had once boomed from the industry.

In Louisiana’s DeSoto Parish, a traditionally poor area, companies started popping up after the 2008 discovery of the Haynesville Shale. But the drilling rigs in the parish have dwindled from 54 a year ago to just 24 last week. And as the drillers depart, so does the money they spent in the community.

Hotels and recreational vehicle parks built to accommodate energy workers sit empty, restaurants have seen sales collapse and local landowners have seen their royalty checks from drilling companies fall by half. Sales tax revenue for the parish and the school district has begun to fall.

“We are expecting it to continue decreasing,” school superintendent Walter Lee said. “We just don’t know when it’s going to level off.”

A similar trend is playing out in areas from Texas and Arkansas to Pennsylvania and Wyoming, as companies turn from natural gas to oil.

“Natural gas is just killing us right now,” said Bill Mai, co-chairman of Wyoming’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group. “The bigger problem is we don’t foresee quick turnaround, unless pretty much the whole country goes into an ice age at this point” (Daniel Gilbert, Wall Street Journal [subscription required], March 13). – JE

 

The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom

March 1, 2012, Rolling Stone Magazine
Jeff Goodell

The Big Fracking Bubble:  The Scam Behind the Gas Boom exposes the dynamics driving Chesapeake’s Energy’s desire to Drill Baby Drill.  It turns out that Chesapeake, lead by self-made billionaire Aubrey McClendon is really in the business of buying and selling land.  A few years ago McClendon was quoted as saying to Wall St. analysts, “I can assure you that buying leases for x and selling them for 5x or 10x is a lot more profitable than trying to produce gas at $5 or $6 per million cubic feet.”

Since leaseholders are required by law to drill on land within three to five years after acquiring the rights or wind up forfeiting the lease, it is critical to Chesapeake that drilling starts in New York State as soon as possible, so that the leases they own will have value on the “secondary” market.

However, the business model that Chesapeake and other gas companies are following is very precarious.  In order to acquire more land, they need more capital upfront, then they must drill or lose it; the more gas they drill, the lower the price of gas and the further it reduces their revenues.  This becomes difficult to sustain especially if the wells underperform or if the gas turns out not to be as valuable as they thought.

The article makes the case that fracking is as much about producing cheap energy as the mortgage crisis was about helping realize the dreams of middle-class homeowners…

 

 

Upstate judges rule towns have right to ban drilling

“It’s a huge victory and a huge morale-booster,” said Catskill Mountainkeeper Executive Director Ramsay Adams yesterday.

BY DAN HUST, FEBRUARY 28, 2012 – NEW YORK STATE — In two separate decisions last week, two upstate New York judges ruled that local municipalities are allowed to prohibit natural gas drilling within their boundaries.  The rulings are likely to be appealed, but they mark a new chapter in the ongoing battle over drilling. Significantly, both judges independently came to the conclusion that two prior cases involving the state’s Mined Land Reclamation Law (MLRL) applied to these two cases, which involved the state’s Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law (OGSML).  The two prior cases had established that townships, villages and counties in New York State retained the right to dictate land uses – under the zoning authority granted them by the state – pertaining to mining.
NYS Supreme Court judges Philip Rumsey and Donald Cerio Jr. said that authority logically applies as well to gas drilling, even though much of the activity is underground.
Thus in a case involving the Anschutz Exploration Corporation versus the Town of Dryden (near Ithaca) and another involving a pro-drilling property owner versus the Town of Middlefield (near Cooperstown), the judges agreed that the respective townships’ zoning bans on gas drilling were legitimate.
“It’s a huge victory and a huge morale-booster,” said Catskill Mountainkeeper Executive Director Ramsay Adams yesterday. “… It established the fact that towns do have the right [to zone out gas drilling activities].”  Though towns may still rack up legal fees in defending such bans in court, Adams felt the rulings reduce the ability of gas companies to recoup alleged losses suffered by such bans. “The ominous threat of the industry bankrupting towns is not there in the way it was before,” he said.
Mountainkeeper played a supporting role in both cases, though Adams gave primary credit to lawyers David and Helen Slottje, plus Earthjustice’s Deborah Goldberg.
“They really were the leaders of this effort,” he stated. “They stuck to their guns … and they won!”
As a result, Adams expects many municipalities to adopt similar bans statewide, possibly before Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials finalize new rules on drilling involving fracking.  Locally, Tusten already has banned drilling, with Highland, Lumberland and Bethel expected to follow in the months ahead.
“We believe this is going to become a major part of the effort to protect communities from fracking,” Adams explained of the twin court decisions. “… I think there is going to be a lot of movement in towns now.”
He said Mountainkeeper will be there to help – and will continue advocating for a total statewide ban.  “Fracking is not safe,” he charged. “… And we believe that most people in most towns don’t want it.”  In the meantime, Adams isn’t sure either case will be appealed, saying Mountainkeeper has heard “mixed signals” from the gas industry and supporters.
READ THE ENTIRE STORY AT THE SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT HERE 

Canadian Farmers Call for a Fracking Moratorium

Canadian Farmers Call for a Fracking Moratorium
February 24, 2012

On February 24, 2012, the National Farmers Union in Canada called for a moratorium against fracking. Jan Slomp, a dairy farmer and coordinator for the NFU in Alberta says that many farmers in her area have either experienced problems with their water wells or have neighbors whose wells have been affected by drilling.

“We are in the heart of Alberta’s oil and gas country where our ability to produce good, wholesome food is at risk of being compromised by the widespread, virtually unregulated use of this dangerous process,” Slomp told the press.

Unfortunately, she said, “not many stories of contaminated water are made public because the oil and gas companies usually force farmers to sign confidentiality agreements in return for replacement of their water wells.”…

 

 

Gas Industry/Environmental Groups Alliance Fractures

Alliance between natural gas industry, environmental groups fracture
February 20, 2012 – The Washington Post
By Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson

Just four years ago, shale gas king Aubrey K. McClendon told shareholders 
of Chesapeake Energy that “finally, we made some new friends this year.”

The chief executive sketched a vision of working hand in hand with “leading 
environmental organizations” on issues “where our interests might be 
aligned.” He said, “We believe this collaboration is unique in the industry 
and will benefit both Chesapeake and these environmental organizations for 
years to come.”

New friendships grew old, then cold. Environmental groups that once took 
money from McClendon — or considered doing so — to make a common cause 
against coal power, have stepped back as they weigh the environmental 
perils of extracting natural gas from shale, a business in which 
McClendon’s Chesapeake Energy is a leader…

Mountainkeeper Featured in LA Times Front Page Story on Fracking

Fracking debate divides New York landowners

As the state prepares to lift a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, many people debate the risks of leasing mineral rights to extraction companies.

Hydraulic fracturingA hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operation takes place on leased farmland near Dimock, Pa., where dairy farms once predominated. (Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles Times / December 27, 2011)…
“Wes Gillingham, 52, a lifelong resident and farmer who works for Catskill Mountainkeeper, an environmental group, says that although relations have largely stayed civil, neighbors are angry with one another — and with him. “People I was friendly with are treating me as if I’m taking money out of their pocket,” he said. The antagonists’ competing narratives rarely intersect.”  Read the entire article here