It looks like the legislative phase of the shale-oil boom in Caliofrnia and Illinois is about finished. Depending on the will and resources of environmental groups, it remains to be seen what can be done in courts to slow the boom until the risks are properly assessed and, if the risks are proved to be substantial, to stop the process.
The two poles of risk are the atmosphere and earthquakes. Pollution of groundwater lies in the middle and is being exhaustively discussed. The seismic issue is important in California because the San Andreas Fault and its tributary faults run alongside and through significant parts of the Monterey Shale Formation from Hollister in San Benito County to near Brawley in Imperial County. As for the seismic situation in Illinois, there is now abundant evidence that fracking in cuasing an increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico.
The amount of CO2 that will be produced by the energy resources locked in the shale formations under Illinois and California ought to be left in the ground rather than be added to the atmosphere, already over 400 ppm, according to scientists and their supporters who believe that to avoid a global tipping point the world must return to the level of 350 ppm CO2.
Neither the seismic or athmospheric argument, however, swayed our politicians, facing pro-fracking forces including financial speculators, energy companies, unions, real estate interests and compliant environmental lobbying groups.
The speed and recklessness of legislation in both states, when the experience of a half a dozen older fracking zones has been studied, written and even make into persuasive cinema, makes it hard to avoid the conclusion reached by John Bellamy Foster and others: "Humanity cannot expect to reach 350 ppm and avoid planetary climatic disaster except through a major global social transformation, in line with the greatest social revolutions in human history." -- The Ecological Rift, Foster, Clark, York; p. 118.
Yet the stakes for capitalism are enormous. China, as everyone now knows --at least those who watch "The Daily Show" -- is the big petroleum winner of the Iraq War; it has contracts for half of Iraq's production.The speculators are claiming that the Monterey Shale Formation alone, containing and estimated two-thirds of the total shale--oil resources in the lower 48 states, will make us energy independent and in fact exporters of gas and oil. This would mean we would not longer have to shed "Blood for No Oil," was John Stewart of "The Daily Show" put it, referring to US cssualties in the Iraq War.
It is a compelling political argument and makes it easier to dismiss the environmental groups, who may be long on accurate analysis but are often short on the "win-win" solutions beloved by politicians who must appease their avid contributors, special interests who believe in an unregulated "free market," particularly the free market in local, state and national elected officials who sit in our legislative bodies. A society that has always mistreated those unfortunate enough to have fallen beneath its heel can hardly be expected to imagine any solutions for environmental crisis.
Badlands Journal editorial board
California, Illinois lawmakers welcome frackers…John Upton
Lawmakers rolled out red carpets for frackers last week in California and Illinois.
California’s Assembly rejected, by a 37-24 vote, AB 1323, which would have imposed a moratorium on fracking until state regulators issue environmental and safety guidelines. Apparently the rush to cash in on oil and gas deposits just cannot wait for such trivial matters. “Let’s unleash this magnificent potential for jobs,” Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R) said, according to the AP.
A separate bill requiring scientific studies, water testing, and public notification of chemicals used by frackers — but imposing no moratorium — passed California’s Senate and will now move on to the Assembly for a vote.
Fracking for gas and oil is well underway beneath private land in California, though there are no requirements for energy companies to tell anybody what they’re up to, meaning it’s difficult to know how widespread the practice is. (Fracking for oil on federal lands in the state, meanwhile, is on hold pending an environmental review ordered by a federal judge.)
The practice of fracking is pitting farmers against energy companies in California. From The New York Times:
By all accounts, oilmen and farmers — often shortened to “oil and ag” here — have coexisted peacefully for decades in this conservative, business friendly part of California about 110 miles northwest of Los Angeles. But oil’s push into new areas and its increasing reliance on fracking, which uses vast amounts of water and chemicals that critics say could contaminate groundwater, are testing that relationship and complicating the continuing debate over how to regulate fracking in California.
As farmers, we’re very aware of the first 1,000 feet beneath us and the groundwater that is our lifeblood,” said Tom Frantz, a fourth-generation farmer here and a retired high school math teacher who now cultivates almonds. “We look to the future, and we really do want to keep our land and soil and water in good condition.”
This mixing of farming and oil, all in one place, is a new thing for us,” added Mr. Frantz, who is also an environmentalist and is pressing for a moratorium on fracking.
In Illinois, a bill that clears the way for fracking to get rolling in the state is headed for the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn (D), who says he’ll sign it. The Natural Resources Defense Council reported last week that some fracking has already been happening in the state, unbeknownst to most Illinoisans, but many companies have been waiting for the state to establi its regulatory framework before sinking their drills. This bill imposes “some of the
"toughest disclosure laws in the country” on frackers, the Chicago Tribune reports, but it’s not nearly as tough as green activists had wanted. From the Tribune:
Under new regulations which would take effect as soon as Quinn signs them into law, companies who wish to frack for oil or gas … must disclose a wealth of new information to the public, which has the opportunity to appeal permits and launch lawsuits against energy firms who attempt to skirt the law.
Environmental groups who helped hash out the bill say they would have preferred a moratorium on fracking.
So, yes, some safeguards are being put in place. But overall, lawmakers seem to hope the legislation will spur an oil boom in the state. The Chicago Tribune summed up the news this way: “Let the fracking begin.”
Is The Next Western Oil Boom on the Horizon?
California’s Fracking Frenzy
by JOSHUA FRANK
California’s Gold Rush may have ended well over a century and a half ago, but there are new prospectors in town and these suits aren’t toting tattered tents and rusty old pans. Instead the new Golden State pioneers employ geologists and lease expensive extraction equipment. Yet, in many ways it is still the Wild West out here in the land of sun and sea, and many are
hoping to strike it rich.
Fracking, or the act of blasting a mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to force oil or natural gas to the surface, is sweeping the Golden State. Currently fracking operations are taking place in nine California counties and many are worried it’s just the beginning. While opposition to fracking in Wyoming, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania gains momentum, critics of the process in California are just now gearing up for what looks like a long fight ahead—a battle certain to be fraught with
industry lies, flawed science and old-fashion fossil-fueled greed.
Opponents argue that uncontrolled fracking emits large amounts of methane and other air pollutants and undermines efforts to head off catastrophic climate change. They also cite numerous instances across the country where groundwater supplies have been contaminated by nearby fracking operations. Additionally, in a place like California where water wars are already intense, fracking could accelerate the crisis—for example, a single horizontal well can use more than 5 million gallons per frack.
At the heart of fracking’s potential future in California is the illustrious Monterey Shale formation, which covers 1,750 square miles from Central to Southern California and holds an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of oil. Unlike many other states where independent operators and drillers dominate the landscape, it’s major oil companies like Occidental Petroleum and Venoco that have operated in California for decades. Yet most of these oilmen have played it safe, opting to not explore the vast deposits of the Monterey Shale because of its limited access and complex geology. Nevertheless, advancements in fracking technology are changing all of that, and fast.
Oil production in the state has been declining for years, yet California is still one of the top oil producers in the country, fourth overall, trailing only Texas, North Dakota and Alaska. If fracking can take off in California as it has in North Dakota recently, the state could experience an oil surge that could make the Golden State the largest oil producer in the US, almost immediately.
“If nothing is done, large parts of our state could be transformed into industrialized oil and gas zones … as we’ve seen in other places like Pennsylvania and North Dakota,” says Kassie Siegel, a lawyer for the feisty Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). “Fracking the 15 billion barrels of oil in the Monterey shale is like lighting the fuse on a carbon bomb that would
shatter California’s efforts to address the climate crisis. Given California’s leadership in addressing climate change, if we can’t stop a fracking boom in California, it’s difficult to see how we get our nation off of fossil fuels.”
First on the chopping block are public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Prices have skyrocketed within the Monterey Shale formation in the last few years, in some cases the BLM is scoring $2,000 an acre for parcels that used to go for a mere 2 bucks. No doubt the companies leasing up the land are betting on a frack-friendly future, where once
untouchable oil reserves soon will be within easy reach.
On April 8, CBD and others won a major legal victory in California that could impact federal land leases across the country where fracking is involved. In response to a lawsuit the groups filed in 2011 against the BLM, a federal judge ruled the Obama administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it auctioned off 2,700 acres of land to oil speculators in Monterey County. The judge said the BLM relied on outdated studies that ignored the potentially damaging effects of fracking in the area. It was the first time a federal court acknowledged that fracking could cause environmental damage.
While there are a a myriad of environmental issues facing California, fracking is the most important among them argues Siegel.
“There is absolutely a danger of California being transformed almost overnight, as other areas of the country have been when the fracking boom hits,” says Siegal. “In other parts of the country, we’ve seen contaminated water. We’ve seen people who live near oil and gas wells complaining of health effects.”
Siegal and others are hoping Gov. Jerry Brown and state officials in Sacramento don’t cave to industry demands, mainly hiding behind trade secrets so they do not have to disclose the chemicals they use when fracking.
Gov. Brown’s first effort to tackle fracking was considered meager at best. In December 2012 the Brown administration put forth a tepid proposal that would require fracking operators to disclose their plans to the state 10 days before ramping their operations. These companies would have to post the list of chemicals used to the online database “FracFocus” along with
the locations they plan to frack. Since FracFocus is not subject to public record laws, companies may claim “trade secrets” exemptions to withhold the names of the chemicals used in their fracking.
“The road we’re headed down will heap a cloak of secrecy around trade secrets,” says Bill Allayaud of the Environmental
Several California state lawmakers also voiced doubts about Brown’s proposal to regulate fracking, saying it didn’t go nearly far enough to protect public health and safety. Brown’s timid attempt to govern fracking also left the regulatory efforts of the practice to the industry itself.
Brown’s logic, however, is transparent: less oversight means more tax revenue and job creation. Or at least that appears to be the myth he’s ascribing to.
“We want to get the greenhouse gas emissions down, but we also want to keep our economy going. That’s that balance that’s required,” Brown told a group of reporters at a recent “clean energy” event. “The fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible, the potential is extraordinary.”
A new study appears to back up Brown’s insistence that fracking in California would be good for business and the state’s depleted bank account. The report, released by USC and the Communications Institute, titled “The Monterey Shale and California’s Economic Future,” estimates that fracking could generate half a million new jobs by 2015 and 2.8....(unfinished sentence)
Critics of fracking in California are concerned with impacts on local waterways, especially in coastal areas such as those in Monterey County million by 2020 in California. The media quickly latched on and so did the industry group that funded it —the Western States Petroleum Association, a fossil fuel lobby shop based in the state capital of Sacramento.
“Clearly, the Monterey Shale is a game-changing economic opportunity that California can’t afford to ignore,” WSPA asserts in a press release. “This opportunity is especially important to the communities in the San Joaquin Valley that have experienced xtremely high unemployment and economic challenges for far too long. The great San Joaquin Valley will be the primary
beneficiary of the jobs, wealth and government revenues that will flow from the Monterey Shale. It’s their time to flourish.”
The Los Angeles Times was also quick to point out that the “study forecasts that the state could reap oil-related tax revenue of $4.5 billion in 2015 and $24.6 billion by 2020.”
No doubt the oil industry got their money’s worth. The study is now consistently cited for the “fact” that fracking the Monterey Shale would be a boon for the economy as well as a huge job creator. However, anti-frackers aren’t backing down.
“[If] you read the study itself, the authors admit that the data they had wasn’t good enough to make any reliable projections, that their assumptions were extremely optimistic, and that the assessment is only ‘preliminary’,” counters Siegal of CBD. “The study ignores environmental damages and ignores the impacts to other industries like agriculture and
tourism that employ far more people in California … It’s a cost-benefit analysis that has no reliable information on the benefits and ignores all of the costs. In the body of the report, the authors admit that their findings have little or no policy value for all these reasons.”
What all of this means is clear: California is in the throes of a fight for its economic and environmental future. Fracking opponents aren’t buying the industry’s job creation arguments. They also believe a further degraded environment will only destroy the precious lands that make California a unique, vibrant state.
The new oil barons, on the other hand, are preparing for a fracking frenzy, likely to be rubber stamped by complicit politicians and a complacent media.
Joshua Frank, Managing Editor of CounterPunch, is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, and of Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is now available in Kindle format. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Our opinion: The gas industry’s belated acknowledgement of problems in Pennsylvania only underscores how long it tried to persuade the public otherwise.
The spin from the natural gas drilling industry has been so rosy for so long that an energy executive’s recent acknowledgement that things have not been as good as the ads suggest must seem like refreshing candor.
Unfortunately, it only affirms what many New Yorkers have suspected all along: that there is every reason to question the industry’s claims about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Nor is there any reason to believe that the industry’s seeming frankness is anything but the latest spin.
Let’s review the record.
First the gas industry sought to dismiss concerns about the new fracking process. It distorted the truth by declaring that fracking has been around for decades. The full story is that high volume, horizontal hydrofracking is a new and dramatically different version of the low-volume, vertical method that had long been used. It covers a vastly larger area, and pumps
millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the earth to fracture rock and release gas. To suggest the new process is the same as the old is like saying there’s no difference between a bamboo fishing pole and a mile-long commercial net.
The industry initially told New Yorkers that the chemicals it wanted to pump into the ground were a secret, proprietary mix.
When it became clear that answer was unacceptable, industry leaders offered that there was nothing worse in the recipe than what’s in a typical kitchen cabinet. When people pointed out that there’s a lot under our sinks no human ought to drink, they were told it was only a tiny percentage of the fracking fluid. Then, when the millions of gallons that tiny percentage
represented became apparent, we were assured it was too far underground to worry about the stuff getting into drinking water.
Except when it did. Then the industry blamed poor well construction, not the drilling, as if those are unrelated. And it only happened once, after all. Then twice. Well, more times, really.
Now the gas industry seems to have a new line: Mistakes were made. The early work in Pennsylvania, which had opened its doors to fracking, “was not the industry’s finest hour,” in the words of Mark Bolling, an executive with Southwestern Energy Co. So much for a process New Yorkers were assured was perfectly safe.
We would like to see clean, safe natural gas extraction in New York. But given its track record, we simply don’t trust a gas industry that time and again has given us the sense that it’s pulling one over on us.
All the more reason that New York needs a moratorium on drilling, so that the health and environmental concerns about it can be studied without the constant pressure of gas industry lobbyists and other advocates who keep assuring us that all is well, if we’ll just take their word for it.
Voice of OC
Is Fracking in the County's Future?...Adam Elmahrek
Signal Hill Petroleum — an oil company with drilling operations in Los Angeles County — has been quietly obtaining permits in seven Orange County cities to conduct a geophysical survey that could help identify new oil reserves.
Oil extraction is not a new phenomenon in the county. Huntington Beach, for example, has been dotted with oil pumps for decades, some of which are within earshot of City Hall and residential neighborhoods.
But the prospect of a new oil driller seeking fossil fuel deposits in a substantial swath of the central and northwestern portions of the county comes at the height of a national debate over the environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
Signal Hill officials acknowledge that the company is obtaining permits in Santa Ana, Anaheim, Westminster, Garden Grove, Stanton, Cypress and Buena Park and has also received a permit from the county.
The company officials insist they understand the concerns that arise from drilling and are conducting extensive outreach to the political leadership in these cities as the company seeks permits.
“We're not trying to pull permits. We're trying to build relationships with each of these communities,” said Signal Hill Petroleum Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Dave Slater.
Yet some city council members didn't know about the testing permits until contacted by Voice of OC. And in cities where city councils were given public presentations on the study, the meeting minutes don't indicate that the purpose of the geophysical survey is to look for oil.
“This was an odd one,” said Buena Park City Councilman Steve Berry, who voted against issuing the permit. “We didn't get much background or information.”
Instead, said a source familiar with the situation, the company has engaged in the type of maneuvering familiar to Orange County politics: hiring former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle to help. Pringle's lobbying firm, Curt Pringle & Associates, has worked behind the scenes with city bureaucracies to obtain the permits, according to the source.
Pringle's firm lists Signal Hill Petroleum as a client on its website. Pringle did not return a phone call seeking comment.
“I just don't know anything about what they're even talking about,” said Tom Tait, mayor of Anaheim, which has already granted the testing permit. “No one's approached me about it. I heard it in passing.”
Promises of Economic Boom, Worries About Environment
Fracking — a process that releases oil and natural gas by injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to break up rock formations containing the fuel — has been praised as the possible trigger for an economic boom that will create millions of jobs nationwide.
But fracking has also come under intense scrutiny for its environmental impacts. Communities in the Northeast close to natural gas fracking operations found their groundwater wells to be contaminated with chemicals and methane. The documentary “Gasland” shows now infamous video of residents turning their kitchen faucets into gas torches by lighting the running water on fire.
There has been debate as to whether the gas in the groundwater was naturally occurring or whether gas drilling caused the contamination, but recent studies have provided evidence that at least some of the problem was caused by the gas wells.
And though most of the fracking controversy has played out in places like New York and Pennsylvania, it is also a major issue in California. The Monterey-Santos shale oil play, a rock formation spanning 1,750 miles under the San Joaquin and Los Angeles basins, is estimated to have one of the largest shale oil deposits in the world — more than 15 billion barrels. Gov. Jerry Brown has said the potential of the state's oil reserves is “extraordinary.”
Signal Hill is looking for oil deposits in an area of Orange County where approximately 70 percent of the drinking water comes from a huge underground aquifer tapped by about 200 wells, according to Roy Herndon, chief hydrogeologist for the Orange County Water District, which manages the aquifer.
Slater said during an interview that the company doesn't engage in fracking in its current operations, using instead a vertical drilling method known as secondary recovery or water flooding. He said that the company doesn't “envision” hydraulic
fracturing in Orange County.
Nonetheless, Slater went on to describe the benefits of fracking that the company has discovered in its research of the method and called it a “compelling technology” for “unlocking oil and gas reserves across the country.”
When asked whether oil drilling poses a risk to groundwater, Slater said not when the drilling is “properly designed and executed according to plan.” He also said that there have been “zero issues” related to groundwater contamination from oil operations in California. And he pointed to stringent water monitoring as safeguarding the county's water resource.
“It's amazing how the groundwater is checked, double-checked and triple-checked by more than one agency,” Slater said.
Despite Slater's assurances, the possibility of an oil drilling operation in this part of the county and its proximity to the aquifer has raised eyebrows among some public officials. Water activists and a UC Irvine geologist have said that there should always be concerns about water quality and that contamination remains a possibility, despite what oil companies
“I would say there are significant risks to ground water,” said Andrew Grinberg, fracking program organizer at Clean Water ction California.
The Risk of Fracking Near Groundwater
Residents of Dimock, Pa., know all too well the dangers of fracking.
Residents in 2009 claimed that their drinking water was making them sick after natural gas wells were drilled in their town.
State regulators declared that the drilling by Houston-based oil company Cabot Oil & Gas had contaminated the town's aquifer with methane. The company still maintains that its fracking operation did not cause the contamination.
An investigation later conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency didn't find any of the fracking fluids residents had suspected were in their groundwater and declared the water safe to drink, sparking outrage from residents.
Even some activists will acknowledge that if fracking is done correctly, many of its harmful environmental effects can be mitigated. However, they also point to a lack of oversight or even knowledge about the chemical cocktails being injected deep underground.
“The problem is a lot of the fracking is couched in secrecy. … If you don't know what they're putting in, it's hard to know
what to look for,” said UC Irvine chemistry Professor A.J. Shaka. “In the nuclear industry we have an NRC, and they regulate it very tightly. We have no GRC, if you see what I mean.”
The biggest risk to groundwater is when during the operation the chemical-laced fracking water comes back up to the surface.
If the driller doesn't adequately contain that waste, it can seep back into the groundwater.
Another risk, which experts say is much lower if the groundwater is shallow and the oil and gas are much deeper, is migration of gas to the groundwater from the drilling. According to state regulators, that's what happened in Dimock; natural gas migrated to the water from poorly constructed wells.
Grinberg said he isn't convinced that the risk is so low. He argued that when a driller bores through an aquifer, there is no casing around the well below the aquifer, and there is a potential for natural gas to migrate into the water in both natural gas and oil drilling operations.
“There's a whole litany of things that can go wrong,” Grinberg said.
California Is New Frontier for Fracking
And although industry leaders argue that there haven't been any incidents in California, Grinberg agrees with Shaka that it's impossible to know when there is no disclosure of the chemicals used. And even in a low-risk situation, contamination of an aquifer would be devastating, Grinberg says.
“You can't fix it very easily,” Grinberg said. “You can't take that pollution once its out, its a really expensive, long-term or even impossible job. That's why the stakes are so high.”
Slater said his company isn't one of the bad actors responsible for groundwater contamination in other places. And he said the wells Signal Hill Petroleum uses are constructed in steel casings well over a mile beneath the surface.
Any waste that comes back up during the drilling process is properly stored, Slater said. “[In] our operations in Los Angeles
County, nothing touches the ground,” he said.
Meanwhile, California is at a crucial moment in the fracking debate. The Assembly has been considering bills to place a
moratorium on the drilling method until more is known about its environmental impacts.
Cities across California are also considering fracking bans. In April, small Mora County in New Mexico became the first county in the nation to ban the method.
And if recent history is an indication, Orange County residents may very well resist any sort of oil drilling.
In the early 1990s, Chevron attempted to start a drilling operation in Garden Grove. After a massive public outcry and a voter initiative that severely restricted where the drilling could occur, the company pulled out.
Nonetheless, Slater hopes that his company can pitch oil drilling as a safe operation that comes with a package of economic benefits, including taxes and fees. His company has been a good neighbor in Los Angeles County, Slater said.
“What we do has a real economic impact, and when we do it community-friendly and environmentally friendly, it's a win-win,” Slater said.
The Antics of the Illinois Legislature
Fracking “Shock Doctrine” Unveiled
by STEVE HORN
The shale gas industry has performed the “shock doctrine” at the 11th hour of the 2013 Illinois State Legislature’s debate over hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the toxic horizontal drllling process through which oil and gas is obtained from shale rock basins nationwide.
This year, both the Illinois House and Senate are set to adjourn for the year on May 31 and the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act will likely receive a full floor vote by adjournment. The regulatory bill has 59 House co-sponsors and eight Senate co-sponsors. Democratic Party Gov. Pat Quinn said he will sign the bill when it arrives on his desk.
With the deadline looming rapidly, anti-fracking activists – or “fracktivists” – have been protesting, sitting in, testifying in committee hearings and committing acts of non-violent civil disobedience daily at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.
Two days before that deadline, the Associated Press (AP) reported that records from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) indicate fracking already has begun in Illinois’ New Albany Shale Basin.
“Carmi, Ill.-based Campbell Energy LLC submitted a well-completion report last year to the [DNR] voluntarily disclosing that it used 640,000 gallons of water [fracking] a well in White County,” AP reports. AP also explained the report was first obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The last-minute announcement paves the way for a “buzzer beater” public relations effort by the industry to ram through a regulatory bill deemed the “most comprehensive fracking legislation in the nation” by its proponents and a “worst case scenario” by its detractors. The bill was predominatly written by Illinois Oil and Gas Association (IOGA), working alongside two major environmental groups: the Illinois Sierra Club and NRDC.
NRDC told DeSmogBlog it caught wind of the Campbell Energy well-completion report not from the industry itself at the negotiating table, but through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The FOIA request also showed another company has fracked a well: Strata-X Energy Ltd.
Among other things, the bill allows fracking to take place within 1,500 feet of groundwater sources and 500 feet of schools, houses, hospitals, nursing homes, and places of worship; and within 300 feet of rivers, lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
Necessary context: the horizontal drilling portion of the fracking process extends between 5,000-7,500 feet.
“We need to acknowledge that fracking is legal today in Illinois, and for all we know, may already be occurring as you read this,“ Sierra Club Illinois‘ Director Jack Darin wrote ambiguously in a Feb. 2013 Huffington Post piece.
Darin’s ominous hypothetical scenario proved true, begging the question: did the industry hide this from those it was at the negotiating table with until the last minute?
Darin answered that question in an email exchange, writing, “We found out about this not from the industry, but from a review of state data.”
Fracking Well Owned by IOGA Board Member, Connected to Lake Michigan Oil Drilling
Campbell Energy LLC’s co-founder Jakob Campbell is on the Board of Directors of IOGA. In other words, IOGA – the industry lobbying force that is pushing for and helped write the Illinois fracking regulatory bill – has a Board Member using the well-completion report as a trojan horse, of sorts.
Ann Alexander, Senior Attorney in NRDC’s Chicago Office, former Environmental Counsel to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and one of the environmental representatives at the negotiating table for the regulatory bill told DeSmogBlog that industry representatives at the table included someone from a California fracking company, an Illinois fracking company, IOGA
VP Brad Richards, and a representative from the IL Chamber of Commerce.
“These are not people who would necessarily know what Campbell was doing. I have absolutely no reason to believe IOGA knew about it and I honestly doubt that they did,” she said. “I look at it and say ‘How would they know?’ I mean, this was a slip of paper they submitted to DNR. Maybe IOGA has some data and they are tracking it like that. If they are, I have never heard about it and I have no reason to believe they have it.”
Alexander later joked that IOGA may have conned those at the negotiating table about Campbell, though she didn’t think that was the case.
“They certainly did a good imitation for people who apparently had no idea and I say that jokingly because I honestly don’t think anybody in that room knew what was going on when we first started the conversation,” she continued. “I mean, IOGA is there to promote its interests, but I have no reason to believe IOGA is collecting this data – this voluntary data – that
some companies are submitting to DNR. There is no reason why the industry would have wanted to hide the ball on this.”
Could IOGA’s VP really not have known that one of his own Board members had performed a well completion? Seems highly unlikely and more along the lines of an imitation of ignorance.
IOGA’s sleight of hand enables proponents of the weak legislation to argue that, because fracking is already happening, the public should accept drilling with essentially toothless regulations - which will be difficult to enforce given a seriously understaffed and under-funded DNR - or get continued drilling with absolutely no regulations. There is no third option, according to this odd narrative.
An alternative path does exist, though, in the form of a moratorium bill. That bill has galvanized the support of grassroots activist groups, 22 House co-sponsors and nine Senate co-sponsors.
Campbell also co-founded Camata Energy LLC with Florencio Mata. Mata was the vice president of exploration of Federated Natural Resources when it was running geological and seismic tests to do offshore drilling in Lake Michigan in the mid-1980s.
Offshore drilling in Lake Michigan has been a point of contention for decades and a moratorium is still on the books.
“Activists and a growing band of politicians are alarmed by the specter of surface leaks from wellheads that could taint drinking water, harm public health and affect wildlife,” explained a 2001 article published in The Detroit News about prospective drilling in Lake Michigan, a description that today rings equally true for fracking.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) supports drilling in Lake Michigan, as do numerous other public officials.
“The bottom line is we are an oil-based economy,” he said in 2010 when asked about drilling in the Great Lakes. “There’s nothing we’re gonna do to get off of that for many, many years. I think we have to be realistic and recognize that fact and, you know, I, I think we have to, get the oil where it is, but we have to do it where it is.”
Illinois Fracktivists React
Grassroots activists in Illinois interviewed by DeSmogBlog find the revelation about the well-completion report unsavory and the timing of it suspect.
“The timing of the announcement of the well-completion report is awfully suspicious,” remarked Tabitha Tripp, a concerned citizen from Southern Illinois. “A moratorium is needed to halt permits, study the science, look at the health care studies before we have a disaster we can’t clean up.
Don Carlson, Executive Director of Illinois People’s Action, put it more bluntly.
“With the apparent relationship between the board member of the IOGA being the same company engaged in the fracking well-completion, the oil and gas industry has manufactured a policy-making crisis they not only have the solution to, but from which they’ll profit greatly,” Carlson told DeSmogBlog. ”This brazen manipulation of environmental policy-making should make legislators as angry as it makes grassroots citizens. Bullies who throw rocks should not be rewarded with window insurance.”
Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog.