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Issue No. 23 - January 1, 2014

1. Endocrine disrupting activity identified in water near fracking activity

A new study, Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region (abstract), published in Endocrinology, reveals that higher levels of endocrine disrupting activity were identified in ground and surface water samples in areas of intense shale gas drilling activity than in areas with limited drilling activity. Researchers from the University of Missouri found that of 39 unique water samples collected in Garfield County, Colorado, 89%, 41%, 12%, and 46% exhibited estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, androgenic, and anti-androgenic activities, respectively.
See below for more on this study.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals have been linked to cancer, birth defects and infertility, even in very small amounts. (See SGBI Nos. 7, 11, and 17). For more on endocrine disrupting chemicals, including many used in the hydraulic fracturing process, see the Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) website. The video above, presented by TEDX founder Dr. Theo Colburn, explains the impact of shale gas extraction in western Colorado, focusing on the dangers of the endocrine disrupting chemicals released by hydraulic fracturing operations into the air and water.

2. Methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction and refining exceed estimates by nearly 5 times

Methane emissions exceed government estimates

A new study by researchers from Harvard and seven other institutions, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) (November 2013) found that anthropogenic methane emissions in the South Central United States greatly exceed previous estimates, by nearly 5 times for fossil fuel extraction and refining and by up to twice previous inventories estimated for agriculture.

The difference between the new study and previous estimates is the result of a difference in approach, as this article from the Harvard Gazette explains. Previous estimates were based on a bottom-up approach that calculated total emissions based on assumed emissions per source point. The new study measured the methane actually present in the atmosphere and used meteorological data and statistical analysis to trace the emissions to their sources.

See the following articles for more on the new research and its implications for climate change policy.

3. Fossil fuel extraction: Lower incomes, higher crime and lower educational attainment

Oil and Gas Extraction as an Economic Development Strategy, published by the independent economic research organisation Headwaters Economics, reveals that, contrary to what is often assumed, when fossil fuel extraction is the major economic activity in a region over the long term, its overall socioeconomic effects on the locality are negative rather than positive.

The study examined six western American states which experienced a boom in fossil fuel extraction in the 1980's and found that with longer specialisation in oil and gas extraction in the local economy:
  • Per capita income declined
  • Crime rates increased 
  • Educational attainment declined
The brief video above features the residents of Ponder, Texas, who have seen well pads constructed as near as 300 feet from their homes, discussing the costs to them and their community of unconventional oil and gas development, including health problems, noise and light pollution, and declining property values. One of their complaints is that they only learned about the oil and gas development when the well pads began to be constructed next door. 

In the UK, residents of the more than 60% of the country that could be licensed for fracking may find themselves in a similar position, as the UK government will not require gas companies to inform residents individually of planned drilling activity near them, even when the horizontal wells could pass under their homes. The UK government considers such a requirement to be an "excessive" burden on the companies.

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