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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | U.S. | Government & Elections
National Methane Emissions (Frac Farts) How The OMB Bureaucracy Delays EPA
Drought conditions haven't affected the California Oil and Gas industry sector. In this piece, I tie together, the need for CEQA, a stronger EPA, the increasing Radiation Levels In Texas Water Wells data routinely hidden from EPA through State Primacy by conspiracy for 20 years, and how Colorado had more than one spill a day in 2013 over 130 that impacted ground and surface waters. Will water issues make it into the Department of Conservation Environmental Impact Report on Oil and Gas Well Stimulation activities in the State? Probably not, because Steam Injection and Full Field Steam Flooding Scenarios are not covered under well stimulation language. Nor are disposal wells for produced water. Both are Underground Injection, including 'Steam Fracking'.
National Methane Emissions (Frac Farts) and OMB Bureaucracy Delays EPA
With the exception of National Environmental Policy and Endangered Species Act, California law preceded and was the basis for the development of federal environmental laws over 40 years ago. The photo is from H.G. Wells 1933 The Shape Of Things To Come, 80 years ago.
There are numerous agencies of the federal government such as the Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that have tangential authority over the environment. But primary responsibility for the nation’s environment rests with the
Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA).
The U.S. EPA is the only major federal regulatory agency that was created not by an act of Congress, but rather by a Presidential Executive Order: President Nixon’s Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1970, 5 U.S.C. App. At 1132-1137 (1982). And as such, the EPA is not an independent regulatory agency.
The U.S. EPA is among the most highly decentralized agencies in the federal government, operating through 10 regional offices. The regional office for the western states is in San Francisco. Generally, U.S. EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. sets policy and promulgates rules, while the regional offices implement U.S. EPA’s programs.
The regional offices pass on to the states the policies and requirements that are issued in Washington, D.C. The regional offices enter formal agreements (Primacy) with each state that include criteria for enforcement and for other conditions of financial assistance. Each regional office has a great deal of autonomy, especially in enforcement and permitting decisions. Where state programs do not meet federal standards or where the states have chosen not to assume responsibility, U.S. EPA regional offices may assume enforcement authority. Where states have implemented their own programs (as in California), U.S. EPA enforcement activity (at least as to administrative and civil enforcement) is fairly limited.
The April 2012 EPA greenhouse gas reporting rule requires oil and gas production facilities (defined in regulation as all wells in a single basin that are under common ownership or control) that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent at the basin level to report their annual emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from equipment leaks and venting, gas flaring, and stationary and portable combustion. EPA estimates emissions from approximately 467,000 onshore wells are covered under the rule. GAO report number GAO-12-874 entitled 'Unconventional Oil and Gas Development: Key Environmental and Public Health Requirements' which was released on October 9, 2012.
Generally, EPA or state regulators can aggregate emissions from related or nearby equipment to determine whether the unit or facility should be regulated as a major source. However, in determining whether the oil or gas well is a major source of hazardous air pollutants, the Clean Air Act expressly prohibits aggregating emissions from oil and gas wells (with their associated equipment) and emissions from pipeline compressors or pumping stations. Additionally, bureaucratic delays at the OMB are undermining the effectiveness of the EPA.
We Need A Strong EPA
Bureaucratic delays at the OMB are undermining the effectiveness of the EPA.
Senators and House Members Urge OMB Director To Take Action on Jun 5, 2013
A letter was signed by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA).
In it, the Members urge the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Sylvia Burwell, to take “prompt action” to expedite the rulemaking process and improve transparency. Under Executive Order 12866, first signed by President Clinton and reaffirmed by President Obama, rules and regulations under review by OIRA are subject to a 90-day deadline. And yet, as the letter notes, “Fourteen of the twenty rules submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been under review at OIRA for more than 90 days; thirteen have been delayed for more than a year… Nine of the ten Department of Energy (DOE) rules under review at OIRA have been there for more than 120 days…”
In addition to the rules listed in the letter, OIRA is (also) holding up a proposal from EPA to add a series of new substances to their “chemicals of concern” list.
The full text of the June 4, 2013 letter can be found at:
The OMB has an OIRA; Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Fourteen of the twenty rules submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been under review at OIRA for more than 90 days; thirteen have been delayed for more than a year. One particularly egregious example of OIRA delays is EPA’s Guidance Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act. This guidance would clarify regulatory jurisdiction over U.S. waters and wetlands. It is an issue that has come before the U.S. Supreme Court three times and, until the Administration finalizes this guidance, will continue to create confusion, loopholes, and inconsistency for officials at the state and local level. Despite the clear need for regulatory guidance from this Administration, EPA’s final guidance has been under review for 470 days, since February 21, 2012.
Nine of the ten Department of Energy (DOE) rules under review at OIRA have been there for more than 120 days. Important DOE energy efficiency standards, such as those for commercial walk-in coolers and freezers, commercial refrigeration equipment, and metal halide lamp fixtures have been pending at OIRA for more than a year.
Similarly, key worker safety standards have also been delayed for far too long. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed rule to protect workers from cancer-causing silica dust has been at OIRA for over two years, since February 14, 2011.
Silicosis is a Worker Safety Issue and a Public Health Issue per concerns related to frac sand mining and transportation of sand to the frac site.
The TRAIN: Three Years Of Republican Attacks on the EPA
On April 7, 2011, the Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing on a discussion draft of H.R. 1705, Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation
On July 8, 2011 Markup of H.R. 2401, Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act of 2011, Subcommittee on Energy and Power
(And for the third year in a row, and introduced 08/01/2013)
H.R.2948: Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation ...
Sponsor: Rep. Matheson, Jim [D-UT-4]
08/02/2013 Referred to the Subcommittee on Energy and Power.
Official Summary Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2013 - Requires the President to establish the Committee for the Cumulative …
Derail This TRAIN
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in Washington, D.C. as Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued the following statement: "Today, the House passed H.R. 2401, the TRAIN Act, which would obstruct EPA's process of setting new health standards delaying life-saving protections. Let me be clear: this is a train we must stop. I will do everything I can to block the rollbacks being pushed by House Republicans and polluters."
In Praise Of The Smallness Of Mediocrity in the year 2009
Excerpts from a leaked OMB memo; tthese are internal discussions from within the OMB on Climate Change in general. These represent the psychology behind the bureaucratic delays.
“Climate change is likely to unfold slowly and people may migrate from hot regions (e.g., Arizona) to more temperate regions (e.g., Minnesota) and this would mitigate the adverse impacts on health (although people would incur migration costs). Further, climate change is likely to lead to innovation that mitigates the ozone related health impacts. Moreover, advances in technology and the development of public health programs (e.g., cooling centers) are likely to lessen the negative welfare impacts of heat waves.”
“The impact of climate sensitive diseases may be minimal in a rich country like the US.”
“Similarly, the EPA document would appear more balanced if it also highlighted whether particular regions of the US would benefit, and to what extent these positive impacts would mitigate negative impacts elsewhere in the United States. For example, it might be reasonable to conclude that Alaska will benefit from warmer winters for both health and economic activity. Deschenes and Moretti (2007 Review of Economics and Statistics) demonstrate that extremely cold days are more dangerous to human health than extremely hot days.”
“Further, there should be a consideration of the fertilizing effect of CO2....” OMB memo 2009
“The memo has no listed author but is marked “Deliberative–Attorney Client Privilege.” A spokesman for OMB told Dow Jones Newswires that the brief is a “conglomeration of counsel we’ve received from various agencies” about the EPA finding, the conclusions of which would trigger regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.”
Leaked memo questions the EPA findings on CO2 as a GHG being a “threat to human health”
It has some strong language about the negative impact EPA regulation of CO2 would have on the U.S. economy: “Making the decision to regulate CO2…is likely to have serious economic consequences for regulated entities throughout the U.S. economy, including small businesses and small communities.”
The memo further indicates that the burden of proof of CO2 as harmful isn’t there, and the EPA finding last month that greenhouse gases are a danger to public health rests on dubious assumptions and could have negative economic impacts, the memo warned.
Yet, since Jan. 1, 2013 oil and gas drilling in Colorado has resulted in a total of 495 chemical spills. Twenty-two percent of those spills impacted groundwater or surface water contamination, according to the latest state data being tracked by the Center for Western Priorities' new Toxic Release Tracker.
According to the tracker, which uses data gathered by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's spill database, 71 spills impacted groundwater and 41 spills impacted surface water in 2013.
Houston Prefecture, State of Texas, US
TENORM Contamination: Radioactive Water Wells
For more than 20 years, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality under-reported the amount of radiation found in drinking water provided by communities all across Texas despite the EPA’s warning in June of 2004 of potential loss of primacy. As a result, health risks to people consuming the water have been underestimated in many water systems where radioactive contaminants are present.
TCEQ consistently subtracted each test’s margin of error from those results, making the actual testing results appear lower than they actually were. In one case, the utility was able to avoid violations for nearly 20 years, thanks to the Texas CEQ subtractions.
Released e-mails from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality show the agency’s top commissioners directed staff to continue lowering radiation test results, in defiance of federal EPA rules, even after 2009.
Associated Press Details
A Jan 5, 2014 published AP investigation reviewed state data on water contamination allegations related to fracking that it was able to obtain from state agencies. Among the findings in the AP's review:
1) Pennsylvania had confirmed at least 106 water-well contamination cases since 2005, out of more than 5,000 new wells;
2) Ohio had 37 complaints in 2010 and no confirmed contamination of water supplies; 54 complaints in 2011 and two confirmed cases of contamination; 59 complaints in 2012 and two confirmed contaminations; and 40 complaints for the first 11 months of 2013, with two confirmed contaminations and 14 still under investigation;
3) West Virginia had about 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells over the past four years, and in four cases the evidence was strong enough that the driller agreed to take corrective action;
4) A Texas spreadsheet contains more than 2,000 complaints, and 62 of those allege possible well-water contamination from oil and gas activity, although none have been confirmed.
The Associated Press review of complaints of contamination of water supplies casts doubt on the industry and it's view that it rarely happens.
Drought Solution Number 13
TURN THE STEAM OFF
Steam Injection, per acre, per Township Section, uses far more quantities of both water and energy than the frac job in California. Steam Injection Is Literally Global Warming, data is scarce....
60 Million Gallons Turned To Steam Per Day By One Company In One Oil Field In Kern
Compared to the water usage of a single family of four, in a 3 bedroom household, that's roughly equivalent to the yearly water usage of 700-1000 families in California, each day.
Water Use Concerns Flood Frac Meetings and DOGGR Workshops Statewide
*2013 California Green Building Code Water Use Modifications states: “A new 3 bedroom single family home with 4 occupants is modeled to use, 174,000 gallons of water per year. The majority of this is for landscaping.” “Combining indoor and outdoor water savings would reduce this amount by another 38,000 gallons per year.”
Household Water Usage Is Miniscule Compared To Enhanced Oil Recovery By Steam
In one week, in one oil field, the yearly water usage of between 5,000 – 7,000 California families is pumped down into the ground, as steam. It comes back out with the oil, as produced water, to evaporate in unlined pits, and toxic ponds,
In the video Mixing Oil & Water, it is shown how just one oil company injects steam into the ground for 7 days in a row, then there is a soaking period followed by a production cycle. As production falls off, steam injection is again, applied – hence the term “Cyclic Steam Injection”.
Mixing Oil & Water: 4 min video
Kern County Farmer Fred Starrh stars in this interesting short video. When his almond trees died after he irrigated them with local ground water Fred Starrh sued nearby Aera Energy (Shell/ExxonMobil venture) for polluting the water.
From Kern County, California to the Alaskan Tundra
Extreme Oil Drilling (National Geographic)
It takes 81 trillion btu’s everyday just to warm the ground here at Kern. 25 square miles to 1600 feet deep. It takes so much energy, enough to power one large air conditioner for every human being on the planet. Admittedly, knowledge not to scale; as the numbers of wells in 'mature' oil fields that employ Steam Injection EOR efforts in the State of California and it's major oil and gas producing counties is not tracked and aggregated and thus is not available to Agencies or the public.
How many mercury light bulbs does it take to save one billion kW per hour?
It takes 81 Trillion btu's per day to heat Kern County to 200 degrees.
GOOD LUCK doing this math on your home calculator!
Kilowatt Hours (Kwh) to btu (british thermal unit) conversion table shows the most common values for the quick reference.
1 Kwh = 3 412.14163 Btu
3,375,000,000,000 btu per hr
almost a billion KW per hour
Who you going to trust?
Ban Fracking, California Moratorium Now