August 4, 2015
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October 23, 2013
Peer-Reviewed Duke University Study Shows High Concentrations of Radioactive Isotopes in Shale Gas WastewaterPosted by EcoPoliticalEcon under Energy, Environment, Fossil Fuels, Renewable Energy, Water | Tags: environment, fracking, hydraulic fracturing, Marcellus Shale, natural gas, Pennsylvania, shale, wastewater, water quality |
A recent study by the Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Duke University showed high concentrations of chloride, bromide, strontium, and radium in wastewater from hydraulic fracturing in Western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Formation, after undergoing wastewater treatment.
226Ra levels in stream sediments (544−8759 Bq/kg) at the point of discharge were ∼200 times greater than upstream and background sediments (22−44 Bq/kg) and above radioactive waste disposal threshold regulations, posing potential environmental risks of radium bioaccumulation in localized areas of shale gas wastewater disposal.
These potentially dangerous, high levels of sometimes radioactive pollutants were discovered in fracking water that had already been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. This poses serious concerns for treated fracking wastewater, let alone water from hydraulic fracturing that has been documented being dumped into nearby water supplies without first being treated.
The study is Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater Disposal on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania. Abstract below.
The safe disposal of liquid wastes associated with oil and gas production in the United States is a major challenge given their large volumes and typically high levels of contaminants. In Pennsylvania, oil and gas wastewater is sometimes treated at brine treatment facilities and discharged to local streams. This study examined the water quality and isotopic compositions of discharged eﬄuents, surface waters, and stream sediments associated with a treatment facility site in western Pennsylvania. The elevated levels of chloride and bromide, combined with the strontium, radium, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopic compositions of the eﬄuents reﬂect the composition of Marcellus Shale produced waters. The discharge of the eﬄuent from the treatment facility increased downstream concentrations of chloride and bromide above background levels. Barium and radium were substantially (>90%) reduced in the treated eﬄuents compared to concentrations in Marcellus Shale produced waters. Nonetheless, 226Ra levels in stream sediments (544−8759 Bq/kg) at the point of discharge were ∼200 times greater than upstream and background sediments (22−44 Bq/kg) and above radioactive waste disposal threshold regulations, posing potential environmental risks of radium bioaccumulation in localized areas of shale gas wastewater
October 22, 2013
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Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:
Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced several significant improvements and resources for communities recovering from the historic September floods: the Colorado Department of Transportation will reopen a section of US 34 to residents; the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will offer grants to repair flood-damaged water and waste systems and water quality testing and the Colorado Water Conservation Board will provide low-interest loans for water systems repairs; and a benefit concert on Sunday, Oct. 27 with several of Colorado’s favorite musicians for flood recovery efforts.
“We are leveraging all available resources from the federal government, local businesses and communities to repair and rebuild Colorado after the historic September flooding,” Hickenlooper said. “We want to thank everyone involved in helping impacted communities recover quickly. We have more work to do across the state, but our resolve is strong.”
US 34 Road Recovery
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October 31, 2012
Colorado’s amendment to legalize marijuana continues to lead for passage with 53% of voters saying they plan to support it to 43% who are opposed. This plays out very much as a generational issue with voters under 30 favoring it 73/25, while seniors oppose it 38/55. Every age group except seniors supports the amendment, and it has a 58/36 advantage with independents.
This is 4-point increase from PPP’s previous (September 4) poll, which showed 47% in favor and 43% opposed. This is also an increase from the October 11 Denver Post /Survey USA poll which showed 48% in favor of Amendment 64 and 43% opposed.
Amendment 64 seeks to legalize the possession, use, cultivation, and manufacture of small amounts of marijuana and goods containing marijuana. It will create the legal framework necessary to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. The Amendment states that the first $40 million in annual tax revenue will be earmarked for public school construction. More information on the Amendment, as well as the full text and ballot language, can be found on the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol website.
While the numbers from the latest PPP survey may appear favorable to supporters of the Amendment, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol cautions supporters against becoming complacent. A similar measure in California, Proposition 19, led in polls until late September before the 2010 election, but was defeated 53.5% to 46.5% on election day.
Post-election analysis of Proposition 19 in California determined that the measure was probably defeated due to late-in-the-game opposition from prominent public figures in California. This is a concern for supporters of Amendment 64 in Colorado as well; Governor Hickenlooper and Denver’s Mayor Hancock, as well as several interest groups, oppose the Amendment.
On the other hand, Amendment 64 has advantages that California’s Proposition 19 did not. Many local law enforcement professionals and doctors, as well as the Colorado Democratic Party, have voiced their support for the measure.
Those in favor of Amendment 64 have a significant fundraising advantage. The Denver Post reports that over $3 million has been spent so far by groups on both sides of the issue. Groups that favor legalization are out-spending opposition groups by a 4-1 margin. However, spending by groups in favor of Proposition 19 in California was also significantly higher than spending by groups opposed, so a fundraising edge for Amendment 64 does not necessarily indicate that it will pass.
Finally, the October 25 PPP poll suggests that support for Amendment 64 is currently at its highest level yet and is trending upward. For comparison, polling for California’s Proposition 19 showed support peaking in late September 2010 and trending downward until the measure’s defeat on election day.
September 3, 2012
People who have lived in Colorado their entire lives, such as myself, often take the water resources of this state for granted. We water our lawns at noon, run the tap while we’re waiting for the water to cool down or while we’re brushing our teeth, and generally take all the fresh water we use for granted (and I’m sure Coloradans aren’t the only ones).
Does it strike anyone else as wrong that we use potable water to flush our toilets? To water our lawns? I don’t mean to sound (too) patronizing, because I’m just as guilty of these things as nearly every other American, but we are all incredibly privileged and most of us don’t even realize it (myself included).
Why don’t we do something about this, like use gray water to water our lawns and flush our toilets? I suspect there are two reasons. First, we just don’t really think about it a lot of the time. It’s just how it is, and we take the status quo for granted. Second, it really would take an extraordinary amount of infrastructure (re)development to re-route gray water from your shower drain to your toilet. Right now, we just don’t have the infrastructure or the will to do it.
It will probably take a significant water crisis, maybe on an order of magnitude similar to the Dust Bowl, to convince us that it’s silly to keep wasting all this fresh water.
Speaking of the Dust Bowl, I live on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, which means I also live on the east side of the Continental Divide. In Colorado, 80% of our rain falls on the west side of the Continental Divide, and only 20% on the east side. So, a significant amount more water flows down the west side of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean than down the east side of the Rockies, to the Atlantic.
But eastern Colorado is where the vast majority of the farming in Colorado is done, because that’s where all those “fruited plains” are. In the early stages of Colorado’s settlement this wasn’t a problem, but during the Dust Bowl, farmers east of the Continental Divide (not just in Colorado) began to covet all that wonderful fresh water out west that they couldn’t use.
So began a little public works project called the Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BT). It was authorized in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and completed almost 20 years later. Upon completion, the project supplied fresh water to 33 cities, including Fort Collins, Boulder, Greeley, Loveland, and Estes Park, as well as farming in 7 Colorado counties. It includes 10 reservoirs, 18 dams and dykes, six hydroelectric power plants, and the Alva B. Adams tunnel.
The technical skill and perseverance required to build the entire C-BT project, and the Alva B. Adams tunnel in particular, continues to astonish me (remember, this was 70 years ago). The tunnel is 13 miles long and goes all the way under the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain National Park. It was built from 1940 to 1944, in the middle of a world war. Much of the impetus for its construction was the hardship suffered by Americans, farmers in particular, during the Dust Bowl.
If this astonishingly hot, dry summer (and a little report from the UN) are any indication, Climate Change is here to stay. Ignoring it will not make it go away, despite what certain politicians seem to believe. Colorado, as well as much of America’s farmland, has faced drought conditions every summer for the past several years, and we desperately need to save as much clean water as we can for its best possible uses. (I’ll give you a hint – it’s not to flush your toilet.)
We need another large-scale water project. This time not to build dams, reservoirs, and tunnels, but to make more efficient use of the water we have. The Federal government can’t even find the political will necessary to pass a budget without shutting down the government, let alone undertake the massive infrastructure investment that would be required to mitigate another Dust-Bowl-like drought. We need that kind of investment to do things like re-route gray water from our shower and sink drains to our toilet bowls and lawns.
I’m afraid we might end up waiting for another Dust Bowl before we do what’s necessary.
This post was inspired in part by my newly begun master’s studies in Agricultural and Resource Economics, where I recently took a tour of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (NCWCD) headquarters. The NCWCD is responsible for administering the water resources for northeastern Colorado, including the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.
August 19, 2012
I just listened to my brother, Jens Lund Snee, interview Stanford Professor Michael Wara, a climate scientist-turned-legal scholar, for Standford’s Generation Anthropocene podcast. See below for Michael’s and Jens’ backgrounds, and for notable quotes from the interview.
Click the link below to listen to the full interview.
An expert on energy and environmental law, Michael Wara’s research focuses on climate and electricity policy. Professor Wara’s current scholarship lies at the intersection between environmental law, energy law, international relations, atmospheric science, and technology policy. Professor Wara was formerly a geochemist and climate scientist and has published work on the history of the El Niño/La Niña system and its response to changing climates, especially those warmer than today. The results of his scientific research have been published in premier scientific journals, including Science and Nature.
Jens-Erik Lund Snee
Jens-Erik Lund Snee is a Masters student at Stanford University studying Geology and Environmental Sciences. He is interested in ways that scientific knowledge can better inform policy, particularly with regard to international natural resources issues. He spent 2011 on a Fulbright Fellowship studying geology and politics in New Zealand.
“The industries that were gonna be regulated played what I think is a disproportionately important roll in driving the design of the law”
“I try to come at the problem from a sort-of fact-based, data-driven… approach, and that isn’t really how things play out in Washington.”
“You don’t see to many ideas that really die in the policy arena, unfortunately, even if there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that they aren’t terribly effective.”
“That person ends up sitting – giving expert testimony to lawmakers – pretending as if – pretending that – this was their idea; that this has nothing to do with a financial arrangement that has been made behind the scenes and I find that – I think that, in particular, gives you some clue as to why ideas, good or bad, don’t die in the policy arena.” (apx 16:00)
“If there was one thing I wish we would try more of, it’s smaller-scale agreements, where we actually do things. Where we experiment with reducing emissions of a particular gas, from a particular industry, and then we learn about how well we can implement those kinds of programs; how much they actually cost, not how much industry and environmental groups say they’re going to cost. And we also learn about our partners in the international negotiation, how much we can trust them, how well they can actually implement agreements that they sign on to.” (18:00)
“I think that, if we could have more sort-of small-scale steps, we could actually get a lot further than we have been by trying to craft this giant kind of global, once-and-for-all agreement.” (20:00)
“We see environmental problems being resolved by regulatory approaches that change behavior, change incentives, and we also see environmental problems being resolved by innovation; but sometimes the innovation is stimulated by the regulation.” (21:00)
“Energy research and development investment in this country is pathetic… We need some basic innovation if we’re going to really change the picture on climate.” (22:00)