Call the Governor’s office today: Grant a public hearing now!

Calls to Gov. Kasich still encouraged. Please say it is GOVERNOR KASICH’S RESPONSIBILITY to require ODNR grant a public hearing. ODNR will not do it without the Governor stepping in.


Our local officials have been notified by ODNR that no hearing is necessary on the K&H3 well permit application. THIS IS AGAINST OHIO LAW and the PUBLIC INTEREST.


phone: 614-466-3555

Please e-mail Roxanne at roxannegroff1227 AT to let us know you’ve called and what response you got.

You may wish to use some of the following in support of your position:

“I am calling with great concern that ODNR will not grant a public hearing on the permit application for the K&H injection well in Torch Ohio, Athens County. I am one of hundreds of concerned citizens who want the governor to tell the Director and Oil and Gas Chief that they must have a public hearing according to Ohio law.

Ohio Administrative Code rule 1501.9.3 states that if any substantive objection is “relevant to the issues of public health or safety, or to good conservation practices” a hearing shall be called, by the chief, within thirty days of receipt of the objection.” Our concerns are substantive and relevant.

The Governor is the only person who can make the Director and the Oil and Gas Chief allow this hearing to happen in Athens, as citizens and our local public officials have repeatedly requested. It is the governor’s DUTY to make his appointees follow state law.

With the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision last week that Ohio oil and gas interests trump local zoning control (Munroe Falls case decision), our highest elected state official must require that the state protect citizens, because the power of local governments to protect their communities is being stripped by the state. Mr. Kasich must rein in this rogue agency that is putting our communities and health at risk. We’re counting on the governor to make his appointees grant a public hearing as public safety and the law require.

I wish to be informed as to when the hearing will be scheduled. Thank you.” phone: 614-466-3555

Please share post at acfan’s facebook page. No deadline. Let’s keep calling!

Please let us know if you get through:


See Athens News coverage and previous ACFAN post on K&H3 application and public outcry, expressed in 198 submitted comments and the Dec. 29 Athens County Commissioners’ public meeting.

See ODNR Director Zehringer letter to Rep Debbie Phillips and Sen. Lou Gentile stating no public hearing is necessary.



ODNR and Jeff Harper can’t silence Athens County!

Updates on the Dec. 30 meeting and the 198 comments submitted on the K&H3 injection well proposal and more:

Complete coverage of ACFAN press release on the 198 comments opposing the K&H3 injection well application:

A few of the excellent comments are posted here: Bernhard Debatin: K&H3 comments, Roxanne Groff’s, and Athens Conservancy’s. 1-22-15

Great coverage of Athens County Commissioners’ December 30 meeting on the K&H3 injection well permit application. The meeting was the result of ACFAN’s request to the Commissioners to host a public meeting, given the timing of the public comment period over the holidays. At least 120 people attended the meeting. Dozens spoke, all opposed to the well. An audio recording of the meeting was submitted by the Commissioners to ODNR along with their own comments and those of citizens who requested the Commissioners report their opposition to the well.

Athens Messenger announces well. Permit (incomplete) application link here. Note that the permit application in the Messenger article is incomplete, omitting the Supplement page that lists 12,000 barrels as the “maximum” to be dumped daily. Even this is not a fixed amount and can be exceeded.

Model K&H3 comments 

E-mail: to request the more complete application with supplement page.


Citing health risks, New York bans high-volume shale fracking


In a historic victory for environmental activists, NY Governor Cuomo has said he will bar high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) in New York State. This decision means that New York’s shale gas reserves are likely to remain in the ground for the foreseeable future.

Before announcing his decision, the governor called on Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens and Department of Health Acting Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to report their findings. Commissioner Martens said that fracking could have major impacts on air quality, water resources and communities, while Dr. Zucker reported that his department’s two-year review found that the process could pose “serious health risks.” He concluded that he wouldn’t want to live in a community where fracking takes place, and wouldn’t let his child play in a school field nearby.


New York’s Department of Health didn’t conduct original research of its own; instead it reviewed the existing literature in the field. Yesterday it released its findings in this 176-page report. PSE Healthy Energy also surveyedthe more than four hundred peer-reviewed scientific studies that consider the impacts of unconventional oil and gas extraction on air quality, water quality, and human health. While there are still significant data gaps, the emerging trend is unmistakable. In every area, the preponderance of scientific studies point to either significant risks or to adverse impacts associated with fracking.

New York Times breaking story

Ecowatch coverage

Food and Water Watch Director, Wenonah Hauter, on the implications for the rest of the country

Athens County participates in national study, released 10-30-14

Warning Signs: Toxic Air Pollution Identified and Oil and Gas Sites: Community air monitoring reveals chemicals linked to health hazards

The recent U.S. oil and gas boom has transformed hundreds of communities across the country—from rural areas and small towns to suburbs and cities—into industrial production zones.  Oil and gas companies are using unconventional techniques such as hydraulic fracturing—known known as “fracking”—to extract deposits wherever they can be reached, even if those places are in the backyards of homes, near schools or places of worship, or on farmland.  Oil and gas production uses hundreds of toxic chemicals that are emitted directly or escape into the air, exposing residents, workers and animals.

In 2012, twelve community groups in 6 states (Arkansas, Colorado, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming), with support from a team of national organizations and experts, decided to test the air near oil and gas development sites located in their communities.

A new report from Coming Clean and Global Community Monitor, titled Warning Signs: Toxic Air Pollution Identified and Oil and Gas Sites, provides results from community air monitoring in those states near oil and gas development sites, including where hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” activities or waste disposal are taking place.  Results show a wide range of hazardous chemicals are present in the air at levels above federal health and safety standards. In some cases, monitors revealed concentrations of hazardous chemicals high enough to pose an immediate health threat to people.

 Community members were trained to collect air samples using equipment and methods certified by federal agencies.  They collected air samples when they personally observed activity at the sites or when they suffered symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, or breathing problems.

Although the monitoring data does not conclusively prove a link between specific chemicals and the health symptoms reported by community residents, the stark findings are enough to warrant a precautionary approach to regulation of oil and gas activities.  We must act on these warning signs to place greater emphasis on avoiding health hazards for all people living and working in drilling and production areas.  

Read the National News Release

Read Warning Signs Athens 10-30-14

Download the full report (4.6 MB PDF)

Read the peer-reviewed journal article in Environmental Health

Download the peer-reviewed journal article (870 KB PDF)

DeSmogBlog covers Arkansas part of the story


Citizens Urged to Tell U.S. Army Corps: “Count our letters!”

Press release also published at

Over four thousand citizens from the Ohio River basin filed protests of Texas-based GreenHunter’s frackwaste barge dock facility permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month. Because more than 3000 letters were sent through an alert by Food and Water Watch (FWW), the Corps is acknowledging fewer than 1000. Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN) encourages writers who used the FWW tool to e-mail Teresa Spagna of the Corps directly at to request that their earlier comments be counted. Sending from your own e-mail account seems to be what the Corps requires to count your letter. Please send a short e-mail to Ms. Spagna requesting your earlier comment be counted. Ms. Spagna has told us that comments will be accepted until a decision is made. She has also stated that the Corps has no deadline for a decision.

Citizens and public officials are concerned because the facility would permit offloading and aboveground storage of over one hundred million gallons of frackwaste shipped from the Gulf Coast as well as down the Ohio River. The 981 miles of the Ohio River provide drinking water to over 3 million people. Ten percent of the country lives in the Ohio River Basin. Why would the Corps even consider approving this project when the chemical makeup of radioactive frack waste is a guarded secret?  Look at ongoing impacts of poisoned water on the cities of Charleston and Toledo and of C8, which after years is still poisoning the very region where this dock is proposed.

ACFAN and a coalition of concerned residents of West Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio have been working to alert the public and encourage letters of protest, joined by Athens County Commissioners and Athens City Council. The calls resulted in an extension of the original July comment period to Aug. 24.

One Meigs County resident’s letter highlighted past promises of prosperity. John Stock wrote, “Meigs County Ohio was once a thriving agricultural leader with many cow dairies and sheep farms. The promise of even more riches arrived with the coal companies who in less than 50 years destroyed the water, soil, and air of this previously fertile land. They took the money and left the county high and dry to deal with the environmental devastation that was high wall coal mining.  Fast forward to 2014: Pomeroy and Middleport have still not recovered,..

“Even with this historical handicap, Meigs County is trying to claw its way out of our social and environmental hole. An on-farm dairy processing plant which relies on water from well fields along the Ohio River is one of the largest employers in the county; the Green Corridor in Rutland Township is a thriving community of farmers, artists, craftsmen, teachers, herbalists, social workers, and more who protect a contiguous area of thousands of acres of land; Pomeroy, Harrisonville, and points in between have established themselves as destinations for seeing and playing The Blues. All of these people have a different plan for the future of Meigs County other than more environmental degradation. What is the economic carrot that GreenHunter is dangling this time? Jobs? Tax revenue? Who honestly believes that this toxic barge dock will do anything more than threaten the health and safety of our community once again?”

Stock and other writers cited the June 2014 Monroe County frackpad explosion and weeklong fire, in which a tributary of the Ohio River was so contaminated that at least 70,000 fish died, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources. A USEPA report on the fire states that at least one chemical involved in the fire cannot be tracked due to lack of testing protocols.
“Downstream drinking water supply officials cannot even track this chemical,” noted Donna Carver, Buckeye Forest Council interim director. “How can they protect citizens who rely on the Ohio [River] for drinking water? This situation can occur only because this industry is exempt from federal drinking water laws that govern all other hazardous chemical industries. This must change,” she concluded.
U.S. Army Corps regulations state, “The benefit that reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments.” Stock’s letter concludes, “The project has no benefits to the region. Its reasonably foreseeable detriments are of great public consequence and must be considered in a public hearing and an EIS [environmental impact statement]. I look forward to notice from you of further opportunities for public comment and public hearings in communities that would be affected by this proposal.”


Attorney Terry Lodge sent a letter to Spagna on Monday 9-15-14, endorsed by twenty groups from Ohio, West Virginia, and Illinois as well as national groups, expanding on this appeal: “We request that you please advise what NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] document the Corps is preparing…Without being informed of the determination the Corps has obviously made concerning NEPA, the public has not been timely informed and NEPA’s aim of maximizing informed public advice has not been met. We further request to know what the anticipated timeline is for production of the NEPA document, and whether it will be circulated for public comment.”


Lodge’s letter concludes with a warning, “Approval of GreenHunter’s permit without disclosing the nature of the material to be delivered to the dock while issuing a NEPA finding only at the end of the process brings into serious question the Corps’ objectivity.  We will consider a lack of response to these requests for information after October 10, 2014 as a sign that the Corps does not intend to address its NEPA responsibilities in a public and transparent way.”


New research shows double digit methane leakage from fracking visible from space

Remote sensing of fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas production in North American tight geologic formations 

The new research concludes: “[E]mission estimates correspond to leakages of 10.1?±?7.3?% and 9.1?±?6.2?% in terms of energy content, calling immediate climate benefit into question and indicating that current inventories likely underestimate fugitive emissions from Bakken and Eagle Ford” shale formations.

We WON a bargedock comment extension! — please send additional comments (even if you sent some in the first round) by Aug. 24. They can be sent electronically.

Yea!! The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers quietly extended the comment period on the GreenHunter bargedock proposal to Aug. 24. We won!! It was our 340 comments that did it. THANKS TO ALL WHO WROTE!…Now we ask you, please, to send additional comments with more detail and more specificity, even if you already sent in comments. MODEL COMMENTS HERE; abbreviated version HERE. COMMENTS CAN BE SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY.

The Corps’ guidance is specific — the more specific and detailed the comments, the more they will be considered in the decision to authorize an Environmental Impact Statement, which we need for further public input and TIME so this disaster doesn’t get permitted.

We’ve posted some lengthy model comments HERE. Guidance material is included. Feel free to e-mail acfanohio AT for a Word doc version to make it easier to copy and paste. Use as much or as little or use as a model for your own.

Feel free to use the abbreviated version below (pdf HERE).

Be sure to include LRH-2013-848-OHR in your subject line. Comments due by Aug. 24.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Public Notice No. LRH-2013-848-OHR

502 Eighth Street, Huntington, West Virginia 25701-2070

Via email to Teresa Spagna,

RE: Comments on Sect. 10 Permit Application #LRH-2013-848-OHR (GreenHunter Meigs County Docking Facility)

Dear Ms. Spagna:

I hereby submit my comments in strong and informed opposition to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issuance of a permit to GreenHunter Water, LLC for construction and operation of a barge unloading and pipeline facility in Meigs County, Ohio, to deliver “bulk liquids” generated by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) operations to upland facilities.

I request a public hearing and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on this matter, owing to its significant, likely or even certain and largely irremediable impacts, especially on public water supplies, water conservation, and air and water quality as well as on public safety and the needs and welfare of the people throughout the eleven-state region who would all be affected by impacts of the project. The unloading and storage of vast quantities of highly hazardous, highly flammable, explosive, toxic radioactive chemicals[1] on the Ohio River are a matter of extreme public interest. In addition to chemicals used in the drilling and fracking process, mercury and other heavy metals, high salinity (chloride at up to 196,000 mg/l), radioactivity (for example, EPA reports liquid Marcellus Shale waste to contain radium 226 at concentrations of up to 16,030 pCi/l; the MCl is 5 pCi/L), and hydrocarbons are at significant levels in frackwaste.[2].

More than 3 million people rely on drinking water supplies downstream of this project. Vast volumes of unidentified and unidentifiable mixtures of highly toxic, radioactive material would likely cause untold and irremediable catastrophe from barge accidents, explosions during off-loading, leaks and spills, which are increasingly common. Spills, leaks, explosions and fires are occurring with increasing frequency at frack chemical and frackwaste transfer sites. They are therefore likely occurrences if this project were to be permitted. Chemical mixtures in the recent week-long Monroe County frackpad fire included chemicals for which testing protocols are not even developed. How can downstream water suppliers know whether these chemicals are in their systems if there are no testing protocols yet available? How can firefighters know how to handle emergencies? The C-8, Elk River, Toledo, and Opossum Creek 70,000 fishkill disasters are all ongoing disasters that would be dwarfed by the scale of disaster that could occur at this facility.

The project has no benefits to the region. Its reasonably foreseeable detriments are of great public consequence and must be considered in a public hearing and an EIS.

I look forward to notice from you of further opportunities for public comment and public hearings in communities that would be affected by this proposal.




[1] See for example U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Minority Staff, Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing (April 2011), identifying 750 chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, including 29 chemicals that are known carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as Hazardous Air Pollutants; US General Accountability Office, Information on the Quantity, Quality, and Management of Water Produced During Oil and Gas Production, GAO-12-56, January 2012; PADEP “Permitting Strategy for High Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Wastewater Discharges,” April 11, 2009; Warner, N.R. et al, , Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater Disposal on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania?, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2013(47):11849–11857 (

[2] New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas, and Solution Mining Regulatory Program, Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs, September 2011, Table 5.9; Appendix 13; Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D., Radioactive Waste Management Associates, “Comments on Marcellus Shale Development”, October 2011; USEPA letter from Shawn M. Garvin, Regional Administrator to The Honorable Michael Krancer, Acting Secretary, PADEP, 3.7.11; US General Accountability Office,Information on the Quantity, Quality, and Management of Water Produced During Oil and Gas Production, GAO-12-56, January 2012.

pdf here: abbreviated version and of longer model comments here.

Multi-state coalition press release published by Akron Beacon Journal at 8-11-14

Athens City Council and Mayor oppose dock proposal: Athens Messenger 7-22-14


URGENT: E-mail Army Corps TODAY re proposed frackwaste barge dock in Meigs County!

UPDATE: COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED TO Aug. 24.  Model comments HERE and abbreviated ones here. Feel free to use! Or write acfanohio AT for copy in Word.

Updated blog post here.

Please tell the US Army Corps of Engineers NO!! to a frackwaste barge dock on the Ohio River in Meigs County!

Send comments to Project Manager Teresa Spagna ( object to a permit for Texas frackwaste company GreenHunter for a frackwaste barge dock on the Ohio River in Meigs County, Ohio.Include RE: LRH 2013-848-OHR in the e-mail subject line. Please include your county and state of residence. 

SAMPLE E-MAIL or use these model comments for more detail and citations!
1. I object to this dangerous proposal, which threatens the drinking water of millions who rely on Ohio River drinking water, with millions of gallons of hazardous, radioactive frackwastes that will be unloaded and stored at this site daily and then shipped by truck to be dumped throughout the region.
2. The public notice and comment period were inadequate and illegal. The public notice must be re-done with adequate notice of electronic submission options, proper local media notice throughout communities in the region, and a new and longer comment period provided to allow the public throughout the eleven-state affected region adequate time to learn about and comment knowledgeably on this potentially devastating project. 
3. There must be an Environmental Impact Statement that the public can see and comment on before further consideration of this massive and significant federal project. Expected and unexpected potential impacts on air and water, including climate change, must be evaluated and made public.
4. This proposal warrants public hearings with proper public notice throughout the eleven adjacent and downstream states that will be directly impacted by this project.
5. The proposal should be pulled for as long as barging on the Ohio River is not legal. This proposal’s consideration at this time will bias the U.S. Coast Guard decision on approval of barging liquid frack waste.
COUNTY and STATE of residence

See also attorney Terry Lodge’s comments to Corps with extensive legal arguments and endorsing organizations, submitted 7-28-14.

Army Corps notice at: 
Thanks to all commenters. Keep them coming! And feel free to send ADDITIONAL comments with more detail, even if you sent comments in last month.

Background and talking points:

The proposal by GreenHunter, a Texas-based frackwaste company, is to build a barge off-loading facility on the Ohio River in Portland, Meigs County. The dock would unload as much as 1 million barrels, or 42 million gallons of frack waste at once. After storage in aboveground tanks, the waste will be trucked to injection wells around the region. Barging of liquid frack waste has not been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, which received as many as 60,000 public comments opposing the proposal.

The dock proposal has not been given official notice in state or local media. The online notice posted by the Corps June 27 specifies that public comments must be hard copies and received at the Corps’ Huntington office by July 28, which has, due to over 340 comments submitted, been extended to Aug. 24. Also, a subsequent verbal and written statement by Teresa Spagna, Project Manager with the Corps, assures us that E-MAIL COMMENTS ARE ACCEPTABLE.

Ohio has experienced TWO fracking explosions and fires this summer, one in Monroe County in which twenty fracking trucks burned for a week and which led to a “significant fishkill,” according to ODNR, and another in which a frackwaste truck at Envirotank’s Belpre facility exploded and burned three men. One remained in critical condition as of July 3. Both explosions involved transfers of hydrocarbon-laden frack liquids. Imagine an explosion from abarge carrying a half-million gallons of frackwaste at a site that is storing hundreds of thousands of gallons of this toxic radioactive waste. What would a spark igniting an off-loading bargeful with a half-million gallons of flammable frackwaste do to the riverside and downstream communities and the 5 million people who drink this water? 

This proposal affects all Ohioans and the region — it would open the floodgates to GreenHunter and other corporations that have no stake in Ohioans’ health and communities. Has ODNR ever said ‘no’ to an injection well permit? NO! (Ohio permits injection well in days, compared to states under USEPA permitting requirements, which can take years to permit. )

Please e-mail Corps Project Manager Teresa Spagna ( to object to the proposal, request an extension of the comment period to October 31, and ask the Corps to hold a public hearing. Comments are due Aug. 24. 

RE: LRH 2013-848-OHR must be included in the e-mail subject line.

Extensive model comments with citations here.  Or feel free to use the following TALKING POINTS for your comments.

1. Since the Coast Guard has not ruled on the transporting of liquid frack waste on the Ohio River, such barge traffic on the river is illegal at this time. Preparing a huge transport terminal creates bias and affects the Coast Guard’s decision.

2. No Environmental Impact Assessment or Statement has been conducted by a nonbiased third party group. [Green Hunter itself has “retained the services of a malacologist to conduct a mussel survey (5 species are endangered)” –in other words, the corporation is paying for its own study of mussels only, the results of which will thus be influenced by the corporation.] The Army Corps of Engineers should order a complete EIS (Environmental Impacts Statement). The safety of the public and the environment requires knowledge of the extent to which the barge dock and its use by frack waste-transporting tanker barges will endanger the entire Ohio River system.  The EIS, by law, should concentrate on the key issues of the environment, public health, social impacts, and potential for long-term and/or catastrophic contamination to one of the nation’s greatest river resources.  The EIS should consider all relevant information with professionalism, rigor, fairness, objectivity, and impartiality, and should be subject to independent checks and verification. It should not be “bought” by the corporation seeking the permit and use of our river. 

3. The Army Corps of Engineers should deny a permit to Green Hunter for the construction of this barge dock for the following reasons:

A. The Corps should prevent an entire terminal to be completed and to go into operation with details of its construction and use maintained behind a screen of business confidentiality;

B. The Corps should prevent undue pressure placed upon the U.S. Coast Guard in considering whether to allow liquid frack waste transport on the Ohio River;

C. The Corps should consider the health and safety of a river whose water quality affects 11 states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri, and three lower tier southern states;

D. The Corps should provide more time to assess short and long term damages of fracking wastes, (many of which cannot be remediated) to trained scientists in all areas of energy exploration, water management, chemical and petrochemical fields, public health, and the environment as well as elected officials, government regulatory agencies, and citizens;

E. The Army Corps should understand the construction of the barge dock and its facility of pipelines, above-ground tanks, and other facility infrastructure as a clear path to expand the fracking industry—the GreenHunter barge dock project gives the green light to the transport of 105,000,000 gallons or more annually of toxic, flammable, and radioactive drilling wastes for injection into dozens of Ohio injection wells and solid waste disposal in area landfills;

F. The Corps should refuse to participate in a business plan to “offload” onto the public and the states the true costs of bulk shipping on inland waterways while only one corporation, GreenHunter, profits.

The Corps should reject this permit proposal until such time as Ohio has completed the rules process for facilities that will store, recycle, treat or dispose of liquid frack waste.  At this time Ohio has no rules regulating these facilities.

Send your comments to Teresa D. Spagna  

Subject: LRH 2013-848-OHR- Permit Application from GreenHunterMUST be included on subject line.  Please include your name, address, and county of residence in your e-mail.

Please copy to Senator Sherrod Brown. Contact form at

See our statewide coalition press release at or

Athens County Fracking Action Network,     acfanohio AT

Scientists document fracking caused water contamination in TX

Scientists: Fracking Polluted Texas Family’s Drinking Water


[On June 5]  a Texas TV station broke the news that new independent analysis refutes the oft-repeated claim by the oil and gas industry that “there’s never been a confirmed case of fracking polluting drinking water”.

Using data from Texas regulators, WFAA, the ABC affiliate in Dallas reported that two independent scientists confirmed fracking in Parker County, Texas by the oil and gas company Range Resources polluted resident Steve Lipsky’s drinking water with dangerous levels of methane from the Barnett Shale.

This is familiar news to people living with fracking across the country. Beyond confirming that fracking does pollute drinking water, the independent reviewers also demonstrate that Texas regulators are more interested in protecting the oil and gas industry than the public.

“Texas regulators should be ashamed of themselves,” said Sharon Wilson, Earthworks Texas organizer. She continued: “Whether it’s the Railroad Commission and drinking water, or TCEQ and air pollution, these agencies have shown that Texas communities cannot rely on the state for protection against fracking and drilling companies that threaten their health.”

The Parker County case is not the first example of fracking polluting drinking water:

“It’s time for the U.S. EPA to come clean about how fracking pollutes drinking water,” said Jennifer Krill, Earthworks Executive Director. “The EPA knew about this water pollution, as it did in Wyoming and Pennsylvania. But at the moment of truth, EPA withdrew in all cases rather than definitively declare that fracking pollutes drinking water.”

Wilson concluded: “It’s no wonder that communities across the country, from Texas to California, from Colorado to New York, are trying to ban fracking. We can’t trust our government to protect us. We certainly can’t trust the oil and gas industry. There is no other alternative.”


Earthworks is dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions.

Where is methane considered in Obama “climate plan”? Robert Howarth’s critique

Statement on EPA Draft Plan Released June 2, 2014 on “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” RIN 2060-AR33

Robert W. Howarth, Ph.D.
David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY  June 7, 2014

I have carefully read the 645-page Draft Plan. There is much to commend in the Plan’s goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to promote more production of electricity by renewable sources and more efficient end use of electricity. However, the Plan has a fundamental flaw:  it addresses only carbon dioxide emissions, and not emissions of methane, another critically important greenhouse gas. This failure to consider methane causes the Plan to promote a very poor policy – replacing coal-burning power plants with plants run on natural gas (see pages 33-34) – as one of the major four building blocks of the Plan.  Recent research indicates that the greenhouse gas footprint of generating electricity from natural gas can exceed that of coal-fired plants (Alvarez et al. 2012;  Howarth et al. 2014 and references therein). The Plan should be revised to reflect the importance of methane and the extent of methane emissions from using natural gas. While phasing out coal is a desirable goal, replacing coal with natural gas trades one problem for another, reducing carbon dioxide emissions but increasing methane emissions to such an extent as to cause even greater global warming.

“Methane” is mentioned only five times in the 645 pages. The first time is on page 59, where it is stated that EPA could not monetize the consequences of nitrous oxide and methane emissions, and that the Plan therefore focuses only on carbon dioxide emissions.  The second time is footnote #13 on page 59, where it is stated that “although CO2is the predominant greenhouse gas released by the power sector, electricity generating units also emit small amounts of nitrous oxide and methane….” Note that in both the first and second mention of methane in the Plan, nitrous oxide comes before methane, even though methane is far more important in global warming (IPCC 2013). Further note that the Plan seems to limit the focus to emissions at electric-power generating plants rather than include full life-cycle emissions. The third time is on page 174, where the Plan states “we have also analyzed potential upstream net methane emissions impact from natural gas and coal for the impacts analysis. This analysis indicated that any net impacts from methane emissions are likely to be small compared to the CO2 emissions reduction impacts of shifting power generation from coal-fired steam EGUs to NGCC units.” And the fourth and fifth times are late in the Plan, where it is mentioned that methane is emitted from landfills and where natural gas is defined.

Early in the Plan (page 19), the focus on carbon dioxide is justified by stating “CO2 is the primary GHG pollutant, accounting for nearly three-quarters of global GHG emissions1 and 82 percent of U.S. GHG emissions.2  These statements do not accurately reflect the most recent and best science on this topic. Footnote #1 refers to the IPCC (2007) report and is based only on comparing methane emissions and carbon dioxide emissions on a 100-year time scale. In the more recent IPCC (2013) synthesis, the IPCC explicitly states that “There is no scientific argument for selecting 100 years compared with other choices,” and that “The choice of time horizon …. depends on the relative weight assigned to the effects at different times.” Because the short-term dynamics of the climate system are far more responsive to methane than to carbon dioxide (UNEP/WMO 2011;  Shindell et al. 2012), comparing methane and carbon dioxide on shorter time scales is essential if we are to avoid warming the Earth to temperatures that greatly increase the risk of tipping points in the climate over the coming 15 to 35 years (see Howarth et al. 2014 and references therein). At these shorter time scales, the IPCC (2013) states that the global emissions of methane are actually greater than (slightly, for the 10-year time frame) or 80% of (for the 20-year time frame) those of carbon dioxide in terms of their influence on global warming; at both of these shorter time scales, carbon dioxide is responsible for less than half of global GHG emissions, not three-quarters.

Similarly, the statement that 82% of US greenhouse gas emissions are due to carbon dioxide (referencing footnote #2, which is the EPA greenhouse gas inventory) is highly misleading. This also is based solely on comparing methane and carbon dioxide on a 100-year time scale, and further uses outdated global warming potentials (from earlier versions of the IPCC, not from IPCC 2013, where the global warming potential for methane has been substantially increased). Also, the best available evidence indicates that the EPA estimates for methane emissions in the US are much too low (Miller et al. 2013;  Brandt et al. 2014; Howarth et al. 2014). EPA aggravated this by reducing their methane emissions for the natural gas industry by a factor of two in 2013, despite increasing evidence that their estimates were already too low (Miller et al. 2013; Brandt et al. 2014; Howarth et al. 2014). The Inspector General for the EPA has called for an improved approach by EPA for estimating methane emissions from the oil and gas industry (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General 2013).

In addition to ignoring the global-warming consequences of methane and natural gas, the Plan does not adequately consider the public health consequences. The Plan states that “actions taken to comply with the proposed guidelines will reduce emissions of CO2 and other air pollutants, including SO2, NOx and directly emitted PM2.5, from the electric power industry” (page 51).  Reducing these pollutants – which largely come from combusting coal – is desirable. However, the use of natural gas is leading to highly elevated levels of ground-level ozone in many areas as well as elevated concentrations of benzene and other toxic and carcinogenic hydrocarbons. The Plan completely ignores these other pollution issues.

A sound government policy on climate simply cannot focus solely on carbon dioxide and ignore methane. The number one source of methane pollution in the US is the natural gas industry (Howarth et al. 2012), and the US should take urgent steps to reduce this methane pollution. The Plan will require substantial revision using better quality and more recent science to consider both carbon dioxide and methane emissions.

References cited:
Alvarez RA, Pacala SW, Winebrake JJ, Chameides WL, and Hamburg SP. 2012. Greater focus needed on methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi  10.1073/pnas.1202407109.

Brandt AF, Heath GA, Kort EA, O’Sullivan FO, Pétron G, Jordaan SM, Tans P, Wilcox J., Gopstein AM, Arent D, Wofsy S, Brown NJ, Bradley R, Stucky GD, Eardley D, and Harriss R.  2014.  Methane leaks from North American natural gas systems. Science 343: 733-735.

Howarth RW. 2014. A bridge to nowhere: Methane emissions and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas. Energy Science & Engineering, doi 10.1002/ese3.35

Howarth, R. W., D. Shindell, R. Santoro, A. Ingraffea, N. Phillips, and A. Townsend-Small. 2012. Methane emissions from natural gas systems. Background paper prepared for the National Climate Assessment, Reference # 2011-003, Office of Science & Technology Policy Assessment, Washington, D.C. et al 2012 National Climate Assessment.pdf

IPCC. 2007. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), Working Group 1, The Physical Science Basis. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. and data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html

IPCC. 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Miller SM, Wofsy SC, Michalak AM, Kort EA, Andrews AE, Biraud SC, Dlugokencky EJ, Eluszkiewicz J, Fischer ML, Janssens-Maenhout G, Miller BR, Miller JB, Montzka SA, Nehrkorn T, and Sweeney C. 2013. Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi 10.1073/pnas.1314392110

Shindell D, and others. 2012. Simultaneously mitigating near-term climate change and improving human health and food security. Science 335: 183-189.

UNEP/WMO. 2011. Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone: Summary for Decision Makers. United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization. Nairobi, Kenya.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General. 2013. EPA needs to improve air emissions data for the oil and natural gas production sector, EPA OIG, Washington, D.C.