The Top-20 Oil & Gas News Stories from 2014

January 6, 2015 –

A lot can happen in a year!  Here’s a look back at some of the most notable stories, studies, and reports from 2014:

20. E&E News: Poisoned by the shale? Investigations leave questions in oil tank deaths
“Dustin Bergsing was 21 and six weeks a father when he arrived here at Marathon Oil Corp.’s Buffalo 34-12H well pad, a square of red gravel carved into a low hill.  By dawn, he was dead.  A co-worker found him shortly after midnight, slumped below the open hatch of a tank of Bakken Shale crude oil.  It was Bergsing’s job to pop the hatch and record how much was inside.  An autopsy found he died of ‘hydrocarbon poisoning due to inhalation of petroleum vapors.'”  READ MORE

19. Denver Post: Greeley School Parents’ Fury Forces Oil & Gas Driller to Back Down
Greeley has already allowed 425 gas and oil wells inside city limits including one near a high school. This time they approved one within 900 feet of an elementary school and parents fought back.  Greeley’s safety infrastructure is so inadequate that officials are admitting they’re not prepared for the worst.  READ MORE

Photo credit: EcoWatch.

18. The New York Times: Hard-Nosed Advice From Veteran Lobbyist: ‘Win Ugly or Lose Pretty’
The oil and gas industry is soliciting public relations advice from–you guessed it–“Dr. Evil.”  His basic game plan for oil and gas industry executives is to “win ugly” by hiding who bankrolls his work, and to “play dirty” and mislead the public on the risks of oil and gas development.  Worse, he’s “already collected six-figure contributions from some of the executives in the room” at a June event put on by the Western Energy Alliance, a pro-industry trade group.  READ MORE

17. Denver Post: Toxic Oil and Gas Spills Have Increased Dramatically
Since May, oil and gas companies spilled oil, gas liquids, and chemicals – including cancer-causing benzene – at least 177 times, a Denver Post analysis of COGCC data found. Several spills contaminated groundwater and one flowed into a river.  READ MORE

“Scientific studies from research groups around the country are documenting higher emissions of volatile chemicals, including methane and air toxins, than estimated by state and federal regulators.” Photo credit: CIRES/NOAA.

16. Denver Post: Researchers Assess Emissions from Colorado Oil and Gas Fields
“The shale drilling boom that is sweeping across the country and unlocking vast oil and gas reserves also has unleashed a wave of air pollutants. Scientific studies from research groups around the country are documenting higher emissions of volatile chemicals, including methane and air toxins, than estimated by state and federal regulators.”  READ MORE

15. Fort Collins Coloradoan: Hickenlooper Halts Oil and Gas Ballot Initiatives; 18-Person Commission Will Study Oil and Gas in Colorado
An 11th-hour backroom deal prevented Coloradans from voting on two common-sense ballot initiatives that would have reigned in the industry.  More than 150,000 had signed petitions to vote on greater setbacks between drilling and homes and for more local government control over development.  Instead, Gov. Hickenlooper created a task force to study the issue and make recommendations on how to improve laws and regulations.   READ MORE

Lou Allstadt, former Mobil Oil Vice
President, calls modern-day oil and gas development “conventional drilling
on steroids.” Photo credit: DC Bureau.

14. Truth-Out: Former Mobil VP Warns of Fracking and Climate Change
Lou Allstadt worked for Mobil Oil for 31 years.  When he retired to enjoy leisure activities like kayaking, tennis, and making pottery, friends started to ask him about fracking because a company wanted to begin developing next to a lake nearby.  The former oil executive turned into an outspoken critic of feeble attempts to regulate the industry and the negative impacts from unconventional drilling and fracking on climate change.  READ MORE

13. AP: Deadly Side Effects to Fracking Boom
The fracking boom has brought many problems related to increased traffic in areas where drilling and fracking is increasing by leaps and bounds. Heavy equipment, trucks, increasing demand from a growing population, more drivers on the road and air pollution all place a heavy burden on community infrastructure–including more traffic accidents and deaths–often more than local officials can cope with.  READ MORE

“A Pennsylvania farmhouse sits below pipes and pumps used for hydraulic fracturing in 2011.” A recent study found far higher emissions of harmful chemicals near drilling sights. Photo credit: Keith Srakocic, AP.

12. US News: Toxic Chemicals, Carcinogens Skyrocket Near Fracking Sites
“‘This is a significant public health risk,’ says Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany-State University of New York and lead author of the study, which was published … in the journal Environmental Health. ‘Cancer has a long latency, so you’re not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities. But five, 10, 15 years from now, elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen.'”  READ MORE & READ THE STUDY

11.  USA Today: People Near ‘Fracking’ Wells Report Health Woes
“People living near natural-gas wells were more than twice as likely to report upper-respiratory and skin problems than those farther away, says a major study … on the potential health effects of fracking.” READ MORE

10. Huffington Post: Family Wins $3 Million Verdict Against Fracking Company
A Texas jury awarded the $3 million to a family that filed suit after their air and drinking water were contaminated by an oil and gas company. Despite the fact that the company plans to appeal, this case sets a positive precedent for impacted residents across the country.  READ MORE

“A dead fish near the site of the recent
fracking-chemical spill in Monroe County, Ohio.” Photo credit: of the Ohio Environmental Council.

9. Mother Jones: Halliburton Fracking Spill Mystery–What Chemicals Polluted an Ohio Waterway?
“On the morning of June 28, a fire broke out at a Halliburton fracking site in Monroe County, Ohio. As flames engulfed the area, trucks began exploding and thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals spilled into a tributary of the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water for millions of residents. More than 70,000 fish died. Nevertheless, it took five days for the Environmental Protection Agency and its Ohio counterpart to get a full list of the chemicals polluting the waterway. ‘We knew there was something toxic in the water,’ says an environmental official who was on the scene. ‘But we had no way of assessing whether it was a threat to human health or how best to protect the public.'”  READ MORE

“Donna Young, a midwife, became worried about air pollution from the oil and gas industry causing child deaths after attending a memorial at a Vernal cemetery and seeing a row of graves for babies.” Photo credit: RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post.

8.  Denver Post: Dead Babies Near Oil Drilling Sites Raise Questions for Researchers
“‘I suspect it is real – that there is a relationship,’ said Susan Nagel, Ph.D, a University of Missouri School of Medicine researcher who is focusing her studies on fracking-fluid chemicals that affect hormones. … ‘Suffice it to say that air pollution from drilling is a part of it,’ Dr. Brian Moench said of the Vernal-area deaths.”  READ MORE

7.  DeSmogBlog: California Aquifers Contaminated With Billions Of Gallons of Fracking Wastewater
Nine waste water injection wells–used to dispose of fracking waste water–pumped nearly 3 billion gallons of tainted water into an aquifer used for drinking and irrigation.  “[H]alf of the water samples collected at the 8 water supply wells tested near the injection sites have high levels of dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, a known carcinogen that can also weaken the human immune system, and thallium, a toxin used in rat poison.”   READ MORE

Scientists say that the methane in Steve
Lipsky’s water well is the same that’s coming from the Barnett Shale formation in Texas.

6. WFAA ABC News 8: Scientists Say Tests Prove Fracking to Blame for Flaming Parker County Water Wells
Scientists in Texas “say test results just released by state regulators provide concrete evidence linking fracking and groundwater contamination… ‘The methane and ethane numbers from the Butler and Teal production are essentially exactly the same as from Lipsky’s water well,’ said earth scientist Geoffrey Thyne of Wyoming, who reviewed the data for WFAA. ‘It tells me that the gas is the same, and that the gas in Lipsky’s water well was derived from the Barnett formation.'”  READ MORE

5. AP: Thousands of oil and gas wells left unchecked by government inspectors
“The government has failed to inspect thousands of oil and gas wells it considers potentially high risks for water contamination and other environmental damage, congressional investigators say.  The report … highlights substantial gaps in oversight by the agency that manages oil and gas development on federal and Indian lands.”  READ MORE

4. Center for Western Priorities: The Boom from Above–Visualizing The Rapid Pace of Drilling in Colorado’s Communities
“Using publicly-available data from the state of Colorado, [CWP] mapped the oil and gas wells drilled in Colorado between 1990 and 2013. The maps show a sea of red moving across the state and into Colorado’s communities.”  READ MORE

“Daryl Peterson taste-tests the residue left by a
wastewater spill on land he farms. The highly
saline spill rendered the land useless.” Photo
credit: Jim Wilson/
The New York Times.

3. The New York Times: The Downside of the Boom
In an in-depth report, the Times shines light on the many negative impacts that come along with the drilling boom.  “More than 18 million gallons of oil and toxic wastewater were spilled in North Dakota from January 2006 to October 2014. Most individual spills were contained to the immediate drilling area, but many of the largest spills polluted surrounding farms and waterways.”   READ MORE

2. US News: Study Links Fracking to Infertility, Miscarriages, Birth Defects
“A new study links shale oil and gas development to a host of developmental and reproductive health risks, and says the processes involved – including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking – pose a particularly potent threat to what researchers called ‘our most vulnerable population.'”  READ MORE & READ THE STUDY

1. The New York Times: Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State
After years of a temporary moratorium on fracking, while state regulators sought conclusive evidence that fracking was safe (they didn’t find it), New York offically banned fracking in December.  Concerned residents across the state have long pushed for a ban, and recently the Concerned Health Professionals of New York presented Gov. Cuomo with a Compendium of Risks and Harms of Fracking.  “We cannot afford to make a mistake. The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not even fully known,” said New York’s acting state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker.  READ MORE & EXPLORE IN-DEPTH

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