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Bradford Co. water quality improves; impacts rare near shale gas wells
June 13, 2018, Pennsylvania State University
A new study of groundwater in a rural Pennsylvania county shows only rare instances of possible gas contamination amid an overall trend of improving water quality despite heavy Marcellus Shale development. 
 
By investigating data from gas companies, the state, and the U.S. Geological Survey, researchers saw possible contamination by natural gas near no more than seven out of 1,385 shale wells studied in heavily drilled Bradford County. The rest of the water chemistry data highlighted that groundwater had either improved or remained level from samples taken prior to the 1990s.
"The most interesting thing we discovered was the groundwater chemistry in one of the areas most heavily developed for shale gas—an area with 1400 new gas wells—does not appear to be getting worse with time, and may even be getting better," said Susan Brantley, director of Penn State's Earth and Environmental Systems Institute and distinguished professor of geosciences. "But using data analytics we could also see rare sites that warrant more investigation for possible gas anomalies."

Brantley and an interdisciplinary team of geoscientists and computer scientists used new data-mining techniques to study a large dataset of 11,000 groundwater samples from the 2010s, taken after drilling in Bradford County.
The team recently reported their findings in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
"Unlike previous studies, our findings show that groundwater quality might even be improving in an area heavily exploited for shale gas—northeastern Bradford," said Tao Wen, a post-doctoral scholar in Penn State's Earth and Environmental Systems Institute and lead author on the paper.
Using data-mining techniques and learning computer models, the team searched for patterns in methane concentrations, a possible indicator of contamination from shale gas wells that use fracking to extract shale gas.
Methane also naturally occurs around geological features like fault lines and valleys. Data-mining techniques help researchers sort through large amounts of data to find elevated methane levels and determine possible sources.
"We look at methane in this groundwater data and we actually can see geology in the data," Brantley said. "I can tell you where there are faults, where there are big folds in the rock based on the groundwater. Then what we look for is where the water chemistry does not look like the geology and looks like something we don't understand. Our hypothesis is sometimes that shows you something about human activities, like shale development."
The team found slightly elevated levels of methane near seven of 1,385 shale gas wells in the study area that were not explained by geological features alone. The team also analyzed other indicators in all the water samples—iron, manganese, total dissolved solids, sulfate, pH—and found they had either improved or remained level compared to sites sampled in the 1980s.
"Data-mining highlighted a few, rare sites of possible methane contamination close to seven shale gas wells and a few conventional wells," Wen said. "Such sites should be sampled and studied in the field. Rare methane contamination cases are consistent with the overall observation that shale gas production has not downgraded the average groundwater quality overall over time."
This research could document improved groundwater quality caused by decreased acid rain, especially since the implementation of the Clean Air Act, or decreased steel production or coal burning, researchers said in the paper.

"I think that's really a story of what's been done since the 1970s and the Clean Air Act and its amendments that have lowered atmospheric deposition," Brantley said. "If such deposition is impacting groundwater chemistry positively that is important—but it needs to be investigated more." 
More information: Researchers have made their data public online at data.cuahsi.org and have released the date-mining technique atgithub.com/shawu810/RegionalCorrelation
Journal reference: Environmental Science & Technology search and more info website

Why can't this committee help us with drilling on our land?
What about our mineral rights contributing to the national security, 
the trade deficit, and energy independence?
JLC Pulse
 
House Republicans propose financial penalties for states 
that block offshore drilling
 
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An oil and gas drilling platform stands offshore near Dauphin Island, 
Ala. in 2013 (Reuters/Steve Nesius)
House Republicans put forward a proposal this week to impose hefty fees on states that do not approve of drilling for oil and natural gas off their coasts, a move that would pressure local leaders who oppose the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore leasing.
The administration’s plan has been met with stiff resistance from many Democrats and even Republicans in coastal communities. Elected leaders in several seaside states even vowed to block the federal government from allowing offshore leasing off their shores.
The draft proposal, which was discussed at a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, says that states will be allowed to disapprove of drilling offshore in up to half of the lease blocks off its coast without incurring a penalty.
But any state with a proposed lease sale that wants to put more than 50 percent of the blocks off-limits would be required to pay a fee equal to at least one-tenth the estimated government revenue that would have been generated from lease sales, royalties and other revenue streams, if oil and gas drilling had taken place.
The bill would also create revenue-sharing scheme for states that do decide to drill. Under current law, only Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas receive a share of offshore oil and gas receipts.
Democrats objected to the idea of dinging states for protecting their coastlines, saying the plan if enacted could cost individual states hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in fees. 
“This bill is a ransom note in a cheap disguise,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.), the committee’s top Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday. “Penalizing states for protecting their own beaches is what you’d see in a petro-state, not in a modern democracy. The Republicans on this committee seem to think we’re here to do industry’s bidding regardless of the consequences, and until control of Congress changes, this is the best the American people can expect.”
But when coastal states cut off federal waters from offshore development, Republicans note, it deprives the rest of the country of revenue that supports the federal government.
“While states are highly involved in the offshore lease planning process, they do not have a veto power over lease sales,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), chair of the Natural Resources subcommittee on energy and mineral resources, said at the hearing Thursday.
What is lost in state-level initiatives to stymie drilling, Gosar added, is that “such attempts to strand federal assets comes at the expense of the American taxpayer.”
The staff for Republicans on the committee led by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) emphasize that the draft bill is subject to change.
Lois Epstein, Arctic program director for the Wilderness Society environmental group, said she thought the draft needed work, noting that it empowers the interior secretary to estimate the value of offshore reserves when calculating the potential penalty.
“You could come up with almost any number there,” Epstein said. “This is very bad policy.”
At the beginning of the year, the Trump administration initially called for opening nearly every corner of U.S. waters in the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean for petroleum exploration.
But the plan was met with skepticism and, at times, outright hostility from many local politicians of both parties who still had the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest oil spill in U.S. history, still fresh in their minds. That unplugged well released more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, killing billions of animals of sea creatures and economically and medically imperiling thousands of Gulf of Mexico residents.
In response to the proposal from Trump’s interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, state legislators in New York, South Carolina and Rhode Island began considering legislation to block oil and gas infrastructure from being built in state waters. Leaders in California, which has decades-old restrictions on offshore development since a 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara, promised to block the transportation of oil from any new offshore rigs through the state.
And by April, New Jersey became the first Atlantic state to adopt a legal barrier to offshore drilling when its new governor, Democrat Phil Murphy, signed a law prohibiting oil exploration in state waters, which extend three miles from shore.
By that month, Zinke acknowledged there was “a lot of opposition” to drilling outside of the Gulf region already dotted with oil rigs. Zinke told Congress that month that he will scale back the offshore administration’s plan.
Among the dissenters in Congress to the Trump administration’s offshore plan are GOP Sens. Lindsay O. Graham of South Carolina, who has called it “horrible public policy,” and Marco Rubio of Florida, who also opposes drilling off the coast of his state.
With the lack of support from the full Republican Senate caucus, it will be difficult to get a measure penalizing states for blocking offshore drilling through the upper chamber, which the GOP controls by a slim 51-to-49 margin.
 
filed:   • New YorkOpinions
Andrew Cuomo’s wind farm won’t fly without fracking  
 
Credit:  By Robert Bryce | The Wall Street Journal | May 18, 2018 | www.wsj.com


New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo led the cheer squad last month when the Interior Department announced it would begin allowing offshore wind turbines to be built in the shallow waters between New Jersey and Long Island. Mr. Cuomo had recently announced a $6 billion plan to build 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030, with the costs passed on to bill payers. But though Mr. Cuomo portrays himself as a champion of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, his simultaneous opposition to a New York City-area nuclear plant exposes his wind plan as a mere play for progressive prestige.
Mr. Cuomo isn’t the only Northeastern governor with windy ambitions. Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker signed a bill in 2016 committing his state to develop 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2027, and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy decreed in January that the Garden State would aim for 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.
But Mr. Cuomo is working the hardest of all to maximize his climate-change credentials. Sitting next to former Vice President Al Gore in 2015, he signed a document committing New York to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions 80% before 2050.
For all his bluster, however, Mr. Cuomo made it clear in January 2017 that his true priority is pleasing environmentalists, not cutting emissions. That was when he gleefully announced that the nuclear-powered Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y., which provides abundant low-cost electricity while producing zero carbon-dioxide emissions, would close by 2021.
Activists like to urge climate-change skeptics to “do the math” on emissions and temperatures – so let’s start by looking at Indian Point’s output. The twin-reactor 2,069-megawatt plant, which sits on the banks of the Hudson River a few dozen miles north of Times Square, produces about 16,600 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year. That’s about a quarter of New York City’s consumption.
Given the troubled history of offshore wind projects like Massachusetts’ ill-fated Cape Wind, it is far from certain that Mr. Cuomo will succeed in building the full 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind capacity proposed in his outline. But even if he does, New York’s emissions are still likely to rise, because the proposed offshore capacity won’t come close to replacing the energy generated by Indian Point.
Comparing Mr. Cuomo’s wind proposal with a pending offshore project allows us to estimate the amount of power it will generate. The proposed South Fork wind project is a 90-megawatt facility scheduled to be built near the eastern end of Long Island. That project – which is opposed by local fisherman – is expected to produce 370 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year. In other words, each megawatt of capacity at South Fork will annually produce about 4.1 gigawatt-hours. If the same ratio holds for Mr. Cuomo’s plan, its 2,400 megawatts of capacity will produce about 9,840 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year. That’s only about 60% of the juice New Yorkers now get from Indian Point.
This simple arithmetic shows that while Mr. Cuomo and his green allies are touting offshore wind, the premature closure of Indian Point will leave New York with a big gap in its electricity sources. What will fill the hole? The short answer, as was revealed by the New York Independent System Operator last December, is natural gas.
If Indian Point closes as scheduled, the NYISO expects its output will be replaced by electricity from three gas-fired plants now under construction, including the 678-megawatt CPV Valley Energy Center in Wawayanda, N.Y., the 1,020-megawatt Cricket Valley Energy Center in Dover, N.Y., and a 120-megawatt addition to the Bayonne Energy Center in New Jersey.
The irony here is colossal. Mr. Cuomo, who banned hydraulic fracturing despite the economic boon it has created in neighboring Pennsylvania, and who has repeatedly blocked construction of pipelines, is making New York even more dependent on natural gas, which will increase its carbon emissions. At the same time, he has mandated offshore wind projects that will force New Yorkers to pay more for their electricity, even though the state already has some of the nation’s highest electricity prices.
That’s the kind of green record a high-profile Democrat might use to run for the White House – which appears to be Mr. Cuomo’s only real priority.
Mr. Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the producer of the forthcoming documentary “Juice: How Electricity Explains the World.”
Source:  By Robert Bryce | The Wall Street Journal | May 18, 2018 | www.wsj.com
Tug Hill Land Trust report raises questions about proposed wind farm
 
Credit:  By Charles McChesney | Business Journal News Network | Date: 6/12/2018 | www.cnybj.com
 
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A proposed wind farm on 20,000 acres of private land in Oswego and Jefferson counties raises concerns, according to a study by two professors at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).
While noting that wind energy is “largely expected to lower or reduce the risk of potentially catastrophic effects to selected wildlife populations from unmitigated climate change,” David Newman and Brian Fisher wrote in the report that the wind farm could create a number of problems.
The report noted that the proposed Mad River Wind Farm, proposed by Avangrid Renewables, would include an estimated 88 wind turbines installed in the “core forest” of the Tug Hill Region. The turbines would stand more than 500 feet tall and include blades more than 200 feet long.
The report, prepared for Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, noted that installing and maintaining the project would require roads as well as clearings, breaking up the habitat. The Tug Hill forest, the report said, “is the third largest and most contiguous forested region in New York State, after the Adirondacks and Catskill forests, and can be considered one of the most relatively undisturbed and ecologically important areas in New York State.”
The report also noted that U.S. Department of the Interior guidance calls for locating wind turbines away from wetlands while the Mad River proposal includes turbines near wetlands.
An Avangrid spokesperson tells BJNN in an email that the state’s Article 10 permitting process, used for permitting power plants, is “one of the most rigorous” and Avangrid invites Tug Hill Land Trust to participate in the process.
“Wind farms have historically been compatible with active working landscapes that support multiple uses, as this property currently does, but we look forward to the environmental studies conducted in accordance with the Article 10 process,” the spokesperson says. “They’ll detail what if any impacts this project may have, and with state oversight, how best to avoid or mitigate those concerns.”

Source:  By Charles McChesney | Business Journal News Network | Date: 6/12/2018 | www.cnybj.com

Reduce, Freeze or Eliminate CAFÉ Fuel Standards

 
 
Posted: Jun 09, 2018 12:01 AM
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Saying the air traffic controller work force was “too white,” the Obama Federal Aviation Administration allegedly replaced hiring standardsbased on science, math and ability to handle intense pressure with rules designed to increase racial diversity. It’s hard to find a more flagrant example of bureaucrats putting people’s safety and lives so low on their list of priorities. Difficult but not impossible.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards also play with people’s lives. Enacted in the 1970s amid fears of imminent oil depletion, the rules require that cars and light trucks on average across each manufacturer’s entire smorgasbord of vehicles must get better and better mileage over a period of years.
For the first few years, improving gasoline mileage was relatively easy. But as the standards tightened, car makers had to make vehicles smaller and use less steel and more aluminum and plastic to achieve the arbitrary mileage demands. That poses a serious problem that the Trump Administration wants to fix.
Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has said for decades. Smaller, lighter vehicles are less crashworthy, less safe. Drivers and passengers in cars and light trucks are many times more likely to die in a crash – and far more likely to maimed, disfigured, disabled or paralyzed – beyond what would have occurred if the CAFÉ standards did not exist or had been relaxed.

 
 
Even with side air bags and other expensive vehicle modifications, smaller, lighter vehicles have less “armor” to protect occupants, and less space between them and any car, truck, bus, tree or other obstacle they might collide with.
As Competitive Enterprise Institute general counsel Sam Kazman noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, a 2002 National Academy of Sciences study estimated that CAFÉ rules had contributed to as many as 2,600 extra fatalities in 1993 – at a relatively lenient standard of 27.5 miles per gallon. Studies by the Brookings Institution, Harvard School of Public Health, National Academy of Sciences and USA Today all reached similar conclusions.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) covered all this up. Grizzly facts would not be allowed to get in the way of a well-intentioned government program.
Thankfully, the mileage standards stayed around 27.5 mpg throughout the 1990s and beyond. But then, in 2012, the Obama Administration began ratcheting the standards upward, with the goal of hitting 54.5 mpg by 2025. The Environmental Protection Agency had begun helping to manage the NHTSA mileage program in 2009, and it became the driving force for doubling the mpg requirements. It became equally complicit in hiding the death and injury tolls associated with CAFÉ.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), other new technologies, and the discovery of new oil and gas deposits mean we will not run out of oil or natural gas for another century or more. So the Obama Administration asserted that mandating far tighter mileage rules would have the co-benefit of reducing tailpipe emissions of “greenhouse gases” associated with dangerous manmade climate change.
Scary headlines, data manipulation, computer models and well-orchestrated campaigns to link nearly every extreme weather event to rising atmospheric levels of (plant-fertilizing) carbon dioxide enabled the climate scare to get as far as it has. But the climate cataclysm movement is running out of gas.
People no longer accept claims that Earth’s climate was stable until the 1970s. They remember that it was a global cooling and global warming scare, before it became a climate change and extreme weather scare. They realize global temperatures have been stable for nearly 20 years, complying with Paris treaty and other climate edicts would cost trillions of dollars, and emerging economic powerhouses like China and India are not obligated or ready to reduce their use of fossil fuels or emissions of greenhouse gases.
 
Despite $557 million in quiet funding by rich liberal foundations to wealthy alarmist groups, people are also figuring out that the Paris treaty actually has little or nothing to do with the climate or environment. “Climate change” is now used to justify replacing the capitalist economic model with a global governance system – and redistributing the world’s resources and wealth. The treaty itself says climate action must include an emphasis on “gender equality,” “empowerment of women,” “intergenerational equity” and “climate justice.” These are the “climate dangers” that supposedly justify lethal CAFÉ rules. 
 
Thankfully, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently proposed to re-examine the 54.5-mpg-by-2025 Obama EPA-NHTSA standards – and possibly freeze them at the pending 2020 level of 39 mpg. Mr. Pruitt noted that the standards had been implemented after years of lobbying by environmental pressure groups, and that assertions of climate and weather benefits do not reflect scientific or historical reality.
There has also been talk of revoking California’s unique right to set tougher standards than are applicable to the rest of the USA, and preventing the state from applying its more stringent mileage rules outside its borders. EPA and Transportation Department officials say they have held “productive” discussions with California air quality regulators and others – but it’s hard to say where the talks might be headed.
The proposed changes drew predictable howls of outrage from environmentalists and California legislators, who are sticking to their claims that tougher mpg rules will somehow avoid climate chaos. An automobile manufacturers lobbying group insisted that mileage standards should increase every year.
Auto makers would understandably prefer to have a single national mileage standard, rather than two: ultra tough rules for California and a lower mpg requirement for the rest of America. But the cost in injuries and deaths dictates that any standard must be held well below 54.5 mpg or even 39 mpg.
Pruitt did not mention the injury and death tolls that result from these mileage standards. He should have, and his new plan to implement comprehensive cost-benefit reforms would compel his regulators to fairly, honestly and accurately assess the social and environmentalcosts and benefits of proposed mileage rules.
That would stand in stark contrast to the way EPA handled its arbitrary social cost of carbon analyses. The Obama agency looked only at alleged and exaggerated worldwide costs of United States carbon dioxide emissions – while totally ignoring the immense and obvious benefits of using fossil fuels. To compound the insanity, EPA claimed it could make reliable predictions three centuries into the future!
To support its various pollution control measures, the Obama EPA raised its “value of a statistical life” presumably saved by a proposed regulation from $7.9 million in 2011 to $9.7 million in 2013. The VSL estimates how much money the public is willing to spend to reduce a risk enough to save one life. It does not appear that EPA employed VSL to estimate thehuman cost of doubling the 1993 27.5 mpg standard.
The agency should certainly do so now. Using a $10-million VSL, $2 million per serious injury or paralysis – and 4,000 deaths and 50,000 serious injuries per year from a 54.5 mpg standard – would mean the average fuel efficiency demanded by California and radical greens would cost the United States $50 billion a year. In return, we would get small and speculative climate and weather benefits from burning less gasoline in the USA, on the assumption that tailpipe emissions play a major role in climate change.
(Applying similar cost-benefit analyses to electric cars would raise serious questions about the generous state and federal tax rebates, free access to toll and HOV lanes, free charging stations and other subsidies for pricey vehicles that only wealthy families can afford.)
Volkswagen’s deceit about diesel emissions defrauded consumers but didn’t kill anyone. And yet VW has generated far more regulatory, judicial, legislative and media outrage than lethal mileage standards.
As Ralph Nader might say, CAFÉ standards make cars unsafe at any speed – not by faulty car design, but by government decree. It’s time to reduce, eliminate or at least freeze these killer standards.

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