Study finds 6,600 spills from fracking in just 4 states

Each year, 2 to 16 percent of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells spill hydrocarbons, chemical-laden water, hydraulic fracturing fluids and other substances, according to a new study. The analysis, which appears Feb. 21 in Environmental Science & Technology, identified 6,648 spills reported across Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania during a 10-year period.

“This study provides important insights into the frequency, volume, and cause of spills,” said Lauren Patterson, policy associate at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the study’s lead author.

Researchers examined state-level spill data to characterize spills associated with unconventional oil and gas development at 31,481 wells hydraulically fractured or “fracked” in the four states between 2005 and 2014.

“State spill data holds great promise for risk identification and mitigation,” Patterson said. “However, reporting requirements differ across states, requiring considerable effort to make the data usable for analysis.”

North Dakota reported the highest spill rate, with 4,453 incidents, followed by Pennsylvania at 1,293, Colorado at 476 and New Mexico at 426. The number of spills reported is partly a reflection of the reporting requirements set by each state. For example, North Dakota required reporting smaller spills (42 gallons or more) than Colorado and New Mexico (210 gallons or more).

“As this form of energy production increases, state efforts to reduce spill risk could benefit from making data more uniform and accessible to better provide stakeholders with important information on where to target efforts for locating and preventing future spills,” Patterson added.

The results of the study exceed the 457 spills calculated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for eight states between 2006 and 2012 because the EPA’s analysis only considered the hydraulic fracturing stage, rather than the full life cycle of unconventional oil and gas production.

“Understanding spills at all stages of well development is important because preparing for hydraulic fracturing requires the transport of more materials to and from well sites and storage of these materials on site,” Patterson said. “Investigating all stages helps to shed further light on the spills that can occur at all types of wells – not just unconventional ones.”

Fifty percent of spills identified in the Environmental Science & Technology article were related to storage and moving fluids via pipelines, although it was not always possible to determine the cause of the spill because some states explicitly required this data to be reported while others relied on narrative descriptions.

Across all states, the first three years of a well’s life, when drilling and hydraulic fracturing occurred and production volumes were highest, had the greatest risk of a spill. The study found that a significant portion of spills (from 26 percent in Colorado to 53 percent in North Dakota) occur at wells that experienced more than one spill, which suggests that wells where spills have already occurred merit closer attention.

“Analyses like this one are so important, to define and mitigate risk to water supplies and human health,” said Kate Konschnik, director of the Harvard Law School’s Environmental Policy Initiative. “Writing state reporting rules with these factors in mind is critical, to ensure that the right data are available – and in an accessible format – for industry, states and the research community

IMAGE….This is a screengrab from the study’s interactive map shows a decade’s worth of spills of more than 5,000 gallons of pollutants from pipeline leaks at North Dakota hydraulic fracturing sites. Source: Science for Nature and People Partnership Source: Science for Nature and People Partnership

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December 5th 1952: Great Smog of London begins

On this day in 1952, the Great Smog descended on London, beginning a national crisis which lasted for four days. Following the Industrial Revolution, which began in the late eighteenth century, London saw a sharp rise in polluted, smoky fog (known as smog) due to toxic coal fumes emitted by factories. Smog, unlike fog, is often thick, discoloured, and foul-smelling, and several smogs affected London throughout the nineteenth century. December 1952 was bitterly cold, and as Londoners burned large amounts of coal to keep warm, the smoke joined with toxic fumes from factories. The smoke was trapped by an anticyclone in the region, and, unable to disperse, combined with fog to create a smog. The thick smog caused chaos in London, with traffic halted by poor visibility of a few metres, opportunists committing crime, and the poisonous air filling hospitals with people suffering from breathing problems. Around 4,000 people, plus numerous animals and livestock, are known to have died as a result of the fog, though recent estimates taking into account long-term damage are much higher at 12,000. The smog was London’s worst civilian disaster, producing more casualties than any single incident during the Second World War and the Blitz. To prevent future disasters, Parliament passed the Clean Air Act of 1956 which tried to limit smoke emissions. Innovations in technology and environmental legislation ensured that no such smog has ever occurred again, but invisible pollution remains a grave concern for modern cities.

(see: metoffice.gov.uk, historytoday.com)

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The Wair smart scarf doubles as an air filter in polluted cities

  • French startup Clausette is hoping to capitalize on air quality concerns around with world with its anti-pollution scarf called Wair.
  • The startup has turned the everyday fashion accessory into a device that it claims can filter out harmful pollutants and bacteria found in poor air.
  • The device continuously monitors outside pollution in real-time and sends users air quality updates.
  • At also suggests travel routes to avoid overly polluted areas, all through a companion app called Supairman.
  • The company’s product line ranges from black neck tubes to wrap-around scarves and retails between around $56 and $91. Read more

follow @the-future-now

Consider donating old clothes when you don’t want them anymore.

Also, consider spending more on quality pieces of clothing that last and having less clothing vs. buying lots of cheaper clothing that wears out.

If you’re not sure what to buy or how to wear only a few pieces of clothing (and by few I mean a few dozen items including shirts, pants, shirts, etc.) go to Pinterest and look up “capsule wardrobe”. There are endless ideas there about how to own only a few things and style them endlessly.

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New York photographer J. Henry Fair showcases the human impact of industries like fracking, mining, and fertilizer production with the sweeping aerials he’s collected in Industrial Scars: The Hidden Costs of Consumption. “I wanted to make pictures that told a story about an economic system that wasn’t functioning,” he says.

SEE MORE: The disturbing beauty of oil spills and industrial waste.

In these 15 cities, exercising outside is actually bad for you because of air pollution

A new report from the Guardianpart of an ongoing series about air pollution — uses pollution numbers from the World Health Organization from May 2016 to identify at least 15 cities around the world that have pollution levels so high that biking outdoors becomes dangerous after just an hour or less of exposure.

Cyclists hit the tipping point into danger after an hour outside in these cities:

  • Kanpur, India
  • Shijiazhuang, China
  • Dammam, Saudi Arabia
  • Ludhiana, India
  • Delhi, India
  • Baoding, China
  • Xingtai, China

In these cities, the risks of exercise outweigh the benefits after just 45 minutes:

  • Bamenda, Cameroon
  • Raipur, India
  • Patna, India
  • Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia
  • Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

And in these cities, pollution levels are so high that just 30 minutes of outdoor cycling is more harmful than it is beneficial:

  • Allahabad, India
  • Gwalior, India
  • Zabol, Iran

Read more | follow @the-future-now

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is the world’s coldest capital city and gets down to 40 degrees below zero. People stay warm by burning coal in heating stoves, but this leads to massive air pollution problems in the city. 

UB residents used facebook to organize a protest in Sukhbaatar square December 26th. In response the government repealed taxes on electricity at night. So hopefully more people will be able to afford to heat their homes with electricity, which should help a little. Yay mongol internet! Good job!