Germany on fracking: “the dangers of this technology are too great”

Amy Mall’s Blog

Germany on fracking: “the dangers of this technology are too great”

Amy Mall

Posted July 31, 2014 in Health and the Environment

The German federal environment agency just released a report on fracking. I don’t speak German, and there is nothing on the agency’s English language website yet, but I am going to post some key quotes from articles I have read:

  • “Basically, we believe that the dangers of this technology are too great,” Federal Environment Agency President Maria Krautzberger.
  • “Fracking is not a solution for protecting our climate, which will help us move across to renewable energy. It would be better if our country concentrated on proven, environmentally-friendly forms of energy,” said Krautzberger.
  • “While a general ban on fracking would be legally difficult in Germany, fast and tough legal safeguards could result in a similar effect.”
  • “The technique should be completely banned in water reserves, such as marshes or lakes, and protected areas.”

I hope someday there is an English language version to read. This one seems to confirm important findings from two previous German reports that I blogged about in 2012.

Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

“Oil and gas spills surge, two a day, residents often not notified”

Amy Mall’s Blog

“Oil and gas spills surge, two a day, residents often not notified”

Amy Mall

Posted July 30, 2014 in Health and the Environment

The Denver Post headline says it all: “Oil and gas spills surge, two a day, residents often not notified.”

There have been reports for years about the high number of spills in Colorado. The good news is that Colorado makes the data accessible to the public. The bad news is that there are too many spills.

There may be just as many spills in other states, but the information is not easily available to the public in most states with oil and gas activity.

This recent Denver Post investigation found that “Oil and gas spills are happening more often in Colorado — at a rate of two a day this year — and usually without anyone telling residents.” The Post also reports that “Colorado has seen nearly as many spills so far this year as were recorded in all of 2013.” According to the Post, “Since May, oil and gas companies spilled liquids — including cancer-causing benzene — at least 177 times, a Denver Post analysis of the COGCC data found. Several spills contaminated groundwater, and one flowed into a river.”

Colorado state officials explain this increase as due to new reporting requirements and tougher enforcement. The bottom line, however, is that there shouldn’t be any spills. The number of spills reflects irresponsible industry practices and penalties too weak to incentivize compliance.

The fact that local residents are not notified adds insult to injury and should be mandated in all states.

Kansas congressman hit by farmers’ backlash

Kansas congressman hit by farmers’ backlash

Associated Press

FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2013 file photo U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp speaks in Wichita, Kan. When the congressman from Kansas' First District, where eleven biofuel plants dot the sprawling landscape, refused to back away from his co-sponsorship of a bill that would phase out a renewable fuel program, many of his rural constituents were infuriated. That anger has now come back to haunt Huelskamp, a tea party favorite, in the waning days before the Aug. 5 GOP primary. (AP Photo/Wichita Eagle, Brian Corn)
FILE – In this Aug. 19, 2013 file photo U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp speaks in Wichita, Kan. When the congressman from Kansas’ First District, where eleven biofuel plants dot the sprawling landscape, refused to back away from his co-sponsorship of a bill that would phase out a renewable fuel program, many of his rural constituents were infuriated. That anger has now come back to haunt Huelskamp, a tea party favorite, in the waning days before the Aug. 5 GOP primary. (AP Photo/Wichita Eagle, Brian Corn)

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Eleven biofuel plants dot the vast expanse of western and central Kansas, where farm fields stretch to the horizon and corn and sorghum are the backbone of the rural economy.

So when the Republican congressman who represents the area co-sponsored a bill that would cut demand for biofuels by phasing out a federal renewable energy program, many of his rural constituents took note. Their anger is now coming back to haunt U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp in the waning days before the Aug. 5 GOP primary.

Huelskamp, a tea party favorite and Kansas farmer known for his criticism of the GOP leadership in Washington, is locked in an unexpectedly tough race with a political novice as he seeks a third two-year term. His challenger, Alan LaPolice, a farmer and educator, supports the renewable energy standards, which mandate a percentage of renewable fuels in gasoline.

Like some others swept into office in the tea party class of 2010 that helped the Republicans capture the House majority, Huelskamp is finding that a strict free-market ideology and local economic interests can be tough to balance.

A political action committee, Now or Never, has dumped more than $260,000 into the race to oppose Huelskamp, regulatory filings show. The group’s ads feature Tom Willis, a Kansas farmer and president of Conestoga Energy Partners, which owns ethanol plants in Liberal and Garden City that make fuel from corn.

Willis said the majority of the Now or Never PAC money being spent on the race comes from Kansas people who are involved in agricultural and ethanol in the state.

The ethanol industry has been the “best success story for rural America” in the last 20 years, Willis said in an interview. Willis said Huelskamp was “willing to put all that at risk for his ideology.”

The Kansas Corn Growers Association, the Kansas Farm Bureau, the Kansas Association of Ethanol Processors and the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association also weighed in this week with a scathing joint statement criticizing Huelskamp.

The congressman’s position “shows a lack of understanding of commodity markets, value-added agriculture, and what it means to be a Congressional Representative to his constituents,” said Farm Bureau President Steve Baccus.

Huelskamp said Wednesday that his legislation, which is not expected to be taken up this year in the House, would phase out the renewable fuel standard over several years.

“I don’t think Washington should be picking winners and losers,” Huelskamp said. “I think industry should be able to compete in the marketplace.”

The political pushback is something new for Huelkamp, who was unopposed for re-election two years ago. Just last year, the Kansas Farm Bureau awarded him its “Friend of Farm Bureau” award.

The incumbent had more than $800,000 on hand this month for the homestretch of the primary, compared to the $36,600 in cash reported by his challenger. The Tea Party Express, Freedomworks for America and other conservative organizations are backing him.

Kansas has 13 biofuel plants that generate nearly $1.5 billion each year, said Greg Krissek, chief executive officer of the Kansas Corn Growers Association. A 2010 legislative study done before the last plant was built found the industry supported 331 direct jobs and 1,600 related jobs.

The plants came on line as rural economies were suffering from dwindling population and fluctuating crop prices.

The state’s two major farm organizations, the Kansas Livestock Association and the Kansas Farm Bureau, declined to endorse Huelskamp’s re-election. Farmers are also upset about Huelskamp’s repeated votes against a Farm Bill.

Huelskamp said his bill includes provisions that would help the Kansas economy by easing environmental roadblocks for expansion of the Sunflower coal-fired power plant and deterring new regulations on hydraulic fracturing in oil drilling.