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Tighten fracking regulations, scientists urge US officials

Ian Sample, The Guardian
An influential group of scientists has urged US officials to step up their policing of shale gas operations and to consider stronger regulations to reduce environmental and health risks at the facilities.

The scientists called on regulators to revisit, and in many cases beef up, their guidelines to avoid surface spills at shale gas works, and to ensure the safe storage and disposal of toxic fluids used in controversial hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations…

Writing in a major report released yesterday, the scientists found “little or no evidence” to support claims that fracking had contaminated aquifers, but recommended that states do more to prevent accidents, such as spillages, underground leaks and gas explosions…

But the authors made clear that their environmental review of shale gas was hindered by the industry’s limited disclosure of chemicals added to fracking fluids, and a widespread failure to sample and record baseline levels of water quality in aquifers before drilling began…

The authors identified more than 800 violations of environmental regulations involving most stages of shale gas operations, from drilling and fracturing to waste disposal and well plugging, at sites in four states dating back to 1999. Of these, 58% were procedural or had little or no impact, with 42% ranked as having a major, substantial or minor impact on the environment.
(16 February 2012)

Link to full report
Link to Guardian interview with the authors

Gas-Fracking Ban in Upstate New York Upheld by State Court Judge

Jim Efstathiou Jr., Business Week
A central New York town can block natural-gas drilling after a state judge, in the first test of local laws, upheld the Town of Dryden’s ban on hydraulic fracturing.

State Supreme Court Judge Phillip Rumsey in a ruling released yesterday said the town’s zoning amendment on gas drilling wasn’t pre-empted by state law. Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp. sued in September, seeking to overturn the ordinance, which bans gas and oil exploration in the town about 200 miles (322 kilometers) northwest of Manhattan.

New York placed a moratorium on the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing in 2010 while state regulators developed environmental rules. Since then, about 20 towns in the state have adopted laws to ban drilling, Karen Edelstein, a geographic information-systems consultant in Ithaca, said…
(23 February 2012)

Exxon tempers European shale gas enthusiasm

Tom Bergin, Reuters
Kevin Biddle, Exxon’s exploration director for Europe, also downplayed the prospects for Poland — believed by many to have the continent’s largest reserves — leading the shale gas charge, saying on Monday that Germany was more likely to be the first shale gas producer.

“Five years is possible for some areas — we have to be working at a pretty good clip to get any significant production online in that time,” he told the International Petroleum Week conference in London…
(20 February 2012)