Tag Archives: pollution

Mining Tar Sands Produces Much More Air Pollution Than We Thought

By Joseph Stromberg, Smithsonian Magazine, February 3, 2014

Research shows that emissions of a class of air pollutants are two to three orders of magnitude higher than previously calculated

Last week, the U.S. State Department released a report indicating that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Western Canada’s Athabasca oil sands to the U.S., wouldn’t have significant environmental impacts. It’s worth noting, though, that the report didn’t say that extraction from the oil sands itself won’t have environmental impacts—just that this mining will proceed with or without the pipeline being built.

Your feelings on the pipeline aside, it’s well-established among scientists that extraction of oil from these oil sands (also known as tar sands) is environmentally dicey. The petroleum found in them doesn’t flow easily like conventional crude—it’s a sticky, viscous type formally known as bitumen but more commonly known as tar—so companies have to resort to alternate measures, either surface mining (digging up the rock or sand covering the oil-laden sediment) or injecting steam to get it out of the Earth.

This uses up an enormous amount of water, distributes toxic metals into the surrounding watershed and perhaps most important leads to an estimated 14 percent higher level of greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil, because some natural gas must be burned simply to convert the bitumen into a usable form.

To this list of concerns, we can now add another. A new study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that production in the Athabasca oil sands region is leading to the emission of levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) two to three orders of magnitude higher—that’s one hundred to one thousand times greater—than previously thought. These higher levels of PAHs in the area aren’t imminently dangerous (they’re comparable to levels found in urban areas, which result from burning gasoline in cars and trucks), but they’re significantly higher than reported in mining companies’ environmental impact assessments and Canada’s official National Pollutant Release Inventory.

Frank Wania and Abha Parajulee, environmental scientists at the University of Toronto, came to the finding by looking at previous estimates for the PAH emissions that result from mining (gleaned from the pollutant release inventory and the mining companies’ environmental impact assessments) and comparing them to levels of PAHs that they measured in the air in the Athabasca region.

“We found that these estimates are insufficient to explain what’s being measured in the environment,” Wania says. “The concentrations of PAHs that should be out there, based on these assumptions, are far too low.”…

continue reading and follow numerous links at Smithsonian Magazine

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My name is David Koch…

My name is David Koch

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by | November 4, 2013 · 3:48 pm

Destroying Precious Land for Gas

By Sean Lennon, The New York Times, 8/12/28

…A few months ago I was asked by a neighbor near our farm to attend a town meeting at the local high school. Some gas companies at the meeting were trying very hard to sell us on a plan to tear through our wilderness and make room for a new pipeline: infrastructure for hydraulic fracturing. Most of the residents at the meeting, many of them organic farmers, were openly defiant. The gas companies didn’t seem to care. They gave us the feeling that whether we liked it or not, they were going to fracture our little town.

…When the gas companies showed up in our backyard, I felt I needed to do some research. I looked into Pennsylvania, where hundreds of families have been left with ruined drinking water, toxic fumes in the air, industrialized landscapes, thousands of trucks and new roads crosshatching the wilderness, and a devastating and irreversible decline in property value.

Natural gas has been sold as clean energy. But when the gas comes from fracturing bedrock with about five million gallons of toxic water per well, the word “clean” takes on a disturbingly Orwellian tone. Don’t be fooled. Fracking for shale gas is in truth dirty energy. It inevitably leaks toxic chemicals into the air and water. Industry studies show that 5 percent of wells can leak immediately, and 60 percent over 30 years. There is no such thing as pipes and concrete that won’t eventually break down. It releases a cocktail of chemicals from a menu of more than 600 toxic substances, climate-changing methane, radium and, of course, uranium.

New York is lucky enough to have some of the best drinking water in the world. The well water on my family’s farm comes from the same watersheds that supply all the reservoirs in New York State. That means if our tap water gets dirty, so does New York City’s.

Gas produced this way is not climate-friendly. Within the first 20 years, methane escaping from within and around the wells, pipelines and compressor stations is 105 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. With more than a tiny amount of methane leakage, this gas is as bad as coal is for the climate; and since over half the wells leak eventually, it is not a small amount. Even more important, shale gas contains one of the earth’s largest carbon reserves, many times more than our atmosphere can absorb. Burning more than a small fraction of it will render the climate unlivable, raise the price of food and make coastlines unstable for generations….

continue reading at The New York Times

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Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers

article by Ian Urbina, New York Times, 2/26/11

[The Times’ new revelations are pretty horrifying, especially for Pennsylvanians who are waking up to find their drinking water may contain radioactive elements derived from natural gas industry procedures. The following letter was submitted to the NYTimes.]

In your article about fracking and water pollution, you mention that Pennsylvania receives much-needed revenue from the natural gas drilling

What sort of revenue do you mean?

Pennsylvania is not taxing extraction, unlike every other gas-producing state. This state should have the sense to tax double what any other state does, because we have the experience of our coal mines.

Decades after absentee owners shut down the played-out mines, we were still working (and paying) to clean our creeks and rivers so fish could live there again.

If Governor Corbett and the rest of the politicians allow our land
to be ruined by toxic chemicals and our people to be sickened with the twenty-first-century version of black lung, then we ought to be taxing the profiteers so we don’t have to double our own taxes to clean up the mess they’ll leave behind.

Joy Matkowski

I don’t have any vested interest in this topic, except as a lifelong
Pennsylvanian old enough to have known former miners dying of black lung and to have seen the Susquehanna riverbed coated with coal dust.

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