Home to Florida panthers, eastern indigo snakes, and alligators, the Big Cypress National Preserve in southern Florida is a national park, a seemingly superficial designation, because below the surface, Collier Resources Company holds private mineral rights to the reserve. According to Matt Schwartz, the Executive Director of South Florida Wildlands Association, “Collier owns over 800,000 acres of mineral rights in the Everglades” and already has two oil operations in within Big Cypress – one at Bear Island and another at Raccoon Point.
Burnett Oil Co. has applied for a seismic survey permit in Big Cypress, which will allow Burnett Oil to send vibrations into the ground in order to find the most lucrative areas for oil drilling. Schwartz believes that the survey will almost certainly spot oil, but the question is simply where the most promising areas are specifically located. Once these areas are determined, exploratory oil drilling can occur. Drilling will not necessarily happen immediately after the surveying, however. “Seismic testing is a commodity,” Schwartz explains, “and the data collected during the testing can be sold to other companies.” In an area as large as the Big Cypress National Preserve (over 700,000 acres), knowing the precise location of oil is very valuable to companies interested in purchasing mineral rights. “If I were an oil company, I would want this [information] too,” says Schwartz, “but [Big Cypress] is one of the most biodiverse places in the U.S., and it is very sensitive.” Big Cypress is home to about 30 listed species, which the seismic testing process could place in jeopardy. Continue reading Big Cypress: Searching for Oil in a Nature Preserve
Proponents of fracking often point to increased employment as a selling point, but the fact of the matter is that the true effect of natural gas extraction on employment is uncertain. In April 2014, a Wall Street Journal article by Paul Polzin and Bill Whitsitt claimed that the “oil-and-gas industry has created hundreds of thousands of new, very-high-paying jobs.” However, in a recent study on the effects of shale gas drilling on Pennsylvania’s economy and labor force, physicist Christoph Friedeburg examined local income tax data and federal and state labor statistics to conclude that fracking’s net contribution to employment was “not merely small, but in fact negative.”
On the issue of fracking and labor, we want our global community of readers to engage in dialogues and debates that lead to the formation of ideas and solutions. To inform and facilitate that process, we will present a series of viewpoints from a variety of stakeholders, including those not typically included in the public discourse. We begin the series with a view that is often underrepresented in the fracking discussion – that is the perspective of the homeowners and rig-workers whose daily lives are directly impacted by fracking in a generally positive and personal way.
Ronda Miller and her husband, Brian, live in Butler County, Pennsylvania. Their home is one of about eight to ten properties that touch the Marburger Dairy Farm, which has leased its land to ExxonMobil for natural gas extraction. Ronda is the mother of two sons, Chad and Jay, both of whom have worked in the hydraulic fracturing industry. Ronda and Jay have given first-hand accounts of the impact that fracking has had on their lives.
“Fracking is good for farmers,” Ronda explained, “because they receive checks for thousands of dollars each month for leasing their land.” However, the families who live on the surrounding properties do not necessarily receive any compensation for the sleep-disruption and general irritation that come from the bright stadium lights, which stay on 24 hours a day, and the loud noises that continue intermittently throughout the day and night. Even when a sound barrier was built around the drilling site, the barrier’s roofless structure limited its effectiveness. “If you take a radio and you put a box up [around it],” Ronda explained “it’s still going to come up the top. You would still get noise.” The drilling had already begun when Ronda and her husband “approached [ExxonMobil] and said [they] should get something for being so close to the noise.” Continue reading The Millers’ Story
With the Vaca Muerta rock formation reaching over 7.4 million square acres, Argentina boasts the second largest shale gas deposit in the world by some accounts. Currently, Argentina is importing more fossil fuels than it is producing, and the exacerbation of this trend will prove unaffordable in the long-run. Argentina’s government has framed natural gas extraction in Vaca Muerta as the key to ending this trend, but there are also some significant issues to consider.
Proponents of natural gas argue that taking advantage of this resource could significantly boost Argentina’s economy, but it is necessary to look at some of the major concerns regarding increased investment in the hydraulic fracking of Vaca Muerta. According to Elizabeth Tedsen, a Senior Fellow at the Ecologic Institute, “the government has courted foreign investment to begin fracking, which has drawn opposition from local governments, environmentalists, and indigenous groups who fear that the environmental damage of fracking will far outweigh any short-term economic and energy benefits.” Other important considerations include the uncertain nature of the natural gas sector, questions of national and provincial sovereignty in light of government deals with American corporations, and the need for effective regulation. Continue reading Pitfalls of Fracking in Argentina
A study recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts, came out with new findings detailing the contents of fracking wastewater, or the water that rises to the surface after hydraulic fracturing operations, also known as produced water. Produced water is not just water used in the fracking operation, but also water that was in or nearby the reservoir that was being pumped now that the geologic formation it was trapped in has been fracked.
There has been significant concern about the chemical content of this water and its possible effects on water tables, human health, and the surrounding environment. Researchers took samples from three wells and conducted analysis. They found that all samples had levels of toxic elements such as mercury and arsenic in excess of US federal contamination standards on water quality. They also found carcinogens at dangerously high levels. However they did not find ethylbenzene and other polyaromatic hydrocarbons, which had previously been thought to be dissolved in produced water. These two compounds are carcinogens. Significant amounts of halogenated hydrocarbons, such as chlorine and bromine were also found, which causes neurological damage in humans.
This research highlights problems with wastewater and fracking. It not only confirms the presence of toxic and carcinogenic elements in fracking wastewater it also identifies the challenges of cleaning produced water. The study calls for more research at different sites to establish a broader understanding of produced water and to develop better ways of cleaning produced water.
Source: Maguire-Boyle, S., & Barron, A. (2014). Organic compounds in produced waters from shale gas wells. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts 16(10): 2237–2248. DOI: 10.1039/C4EM00376D.