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Issue No. 17 - October 1, 2013

1. Colorado flooding - a hazardous waste disaster?

Between September 9 and 16, 2013, the Boulder region of Colorado received 17.15 inches of rain, in what is being called a "thousand-year" flood. The same region is one of the most intensely fracked in the state, with more than 20,000 oil and gas wells. As the following articles report (and as the video at left shows), many oil and gas installations and infrastructure, including at least one oil pipeline were damaged or washed away by the floods.
The Reuters article above quotes Dr. Tony Ingraffea of Cornell University:

"We don't know the disposition of the chemicals and waste at this point, but there's a possibility that the flooding allowed their release, and that is a major concern...We could have a long term, hazardous waste cleanup problem."

These two reports from 2012 discuss the potential environmental impacts of flooding unconventional oil and gas installations:

2. Medical professionals address health impacts from fracking

Facts on Fracking
The  American Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) has recently produced three "Fractsheets" (PDF files) that explain the health impacts of fracking and how to address them. These are informational brochures directed at health care providers, the general public, and  legislators.

The Medical Resources page of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project site offers numerous resources for health professionals concerned about fracking impacts, from air and water pollution, noise and light pollution, and stress. These resources include presentations of case studies, questionnaires for patients, and the advisory brochure "Here are 3 good things to do if you live near gas drilling".

Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy also offers the following video courses for medical professionals:
  1. Introduction to Shale Gas Extraction, Anthony Ingraffea, PhD, PE
  2. Potential Health Impacts of Natural Gas Extraction, Jerome Paulson, MD
  3. Impacts of Drilling on Human and Animal Health, Michelle Bamberger, DVM, MS & Robert Oswald, PhD
  4. Fundamental Chemical Toxicology with Exposure Related to Shale Gas Development, David Brown, ScD
  5. Endocrine Disruption Chemicals, Adam Law, MD
  6. Patient Evaluation, Denise DeJohn, RN, MSN, CRNP
  7. Health Impact Assessment for Shale Gas Extraction, Larysa Dyrszka, MD
  8. Understanding the Nuances of Study Design, Madelon Finkel, PhD
The pollution and associated health impacts caused by unconventional oil and gas extraction are detailed in the new Earthworks report Reckless Endangerment While Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Government fails, public health suffers and industry profits from the shale oil boom, published on September 19, 2013. The report package includes a number of infrared videos showing emissions of pollution that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

3. Deborah Rogers visits Ireland

Deborah Rogers, one of the leading financial experts in the area of shale gas and oil development, was recently in Ireland to speak at the "2030 Vision – The Future of Energy in Ireland" conference organised by Good Energies Alliance Ireland. Ms. Rogers was also interviewed by Pat Kenny on Newstalk on September 18th. The podcast of the interview is here. Below some excerpts:

"We went in and looked at 65,000 shale gas wells in the United States in every formation, and what we found is that – contrary to what industry told us, that these wells would go on for decades and decades to come – they're actually usually played out about 85% by year 5. Year 5."

"And the companies themselves are struggling. We've seen two rounds of massive asset write-downs in shales, just since 2009. Even as recently as about a month ago, companies the size of Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon have taken huge hits to their earnings, and it’s from shales. So you know that there’s an underlying problem there. So all this talk about shale providing cheap and abundant energy -- it’s not going to be abundant unless they can keep this drilling frenzy up, and it’s not going to be cheap because the companies will simply go out of business if it stays cheap for too long."

"When they (the oil and gas industry) first came to the financial community and said, “We have this new technology and we don’t know exactly how to determine projections, but we think we do, so we’re going to base it on conventional wells,” ...we had to believe them, to some degree, because there was no track record. It took about five years, and then there was enough production where you could start to look and see what the wells had actually done. And what we saw was a very, very different picture than what the industry had projected. And what was interesting about that to me was, the moment we could begin to check those numbers, they announced that they were leaving shale gas and moving into shale oil, and that shale oil was going to be the next big panacea. And shale oil is proving now to deplete even more rapidly than shale gas. To give you an example, some of these wells deplete over 90 percent in the first year. The first year."

For more commentary and analysis by Ms. Rogers, see her blog.

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