TIME Innovation

Don’t Let Ukraine Become the Next Greece

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Don’t let Ukraine become the next Greece.

By Philip Zelikow in RealClearPolitics

2. The Web that could spark revolutions and free people is dying.

By Hossein Derakhshan in Matter

3. Fracking produces millions of gallons of polluted water every day. One company figured out how to clean it.

By Rob Matheson at the MIT News Office

4. Find out why one school district is buying body cameras — for principals.

By Mackenzie Ryan in the Des Moines Register

5. Listen to what women say, not how they say it.

By Ann Friedman in the Cut

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME

Feds Say Fracking Has Little Impact on U.S. Drinking Water

Fracking Jonah Field wyoming
Alex Milan Tracy—Sipa USA/AP Schlumberger trucks with 2000 horsepower pumps direct water, sand and chemicals over 11,000 feet into the ground to create a fracture at a completion site on the Jonah Field in Sublette County, Wyo., pictured on April 9, 2015.

EPA report says no evidence of "widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States"

The controversial oil and gas extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing — commonly known as “fracking”— has no “widespread” impact on American drinking water, according to a new report released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fracking, when water-based mixtures are pumped at a high pressure into geologic formations to extract oil and gas, has long been criticized by environmentalists who claim the wastewater from the process can pollute nearby freshwater supplies such as springs, lakes and rivers. The report, however, found “no evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”

The report does note some specific instances, however, when some parts of the fracking process have contaminated drinking wells or otherwise impacted the American water supply, but authors note the number of cases is “small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.”

The fracking industry has been partly responsible for a revolution in the shale oil industry, lifting U.S. production to 9.3 million barrels a day in early 2015 — up from 5.6 million barrels a day in 2010. However, the worldwide fall in oil prices since last year has shrunk demand for the method of extraction, with many fracking companies forced to slash costs or shut down operations.

The report warns there are some activities both above and below ground that could have an adverse impact on the water supply, including water withdrawals at places with low water availability, spills, poor treatment of wastewater, and the way water moves in and out of fracking areas. The study’s authors note that municipalities, tribes, and federal officials should use the report to keep future contamination from occurring.

The reports authors say while the findings could mean contamination is rare, it could also be a result of limited data on resources before and after fracking begins and the lack of a definitive link between some instances of contamination and fracking activities.

TIME energy

Fracking Chemicals Detected in Pennsylvania Drinking Water, Study Says

Marcellus Goliath Transforms Towns to Gas Trade
Ty Wright—Bloomberg/Getty Images Threaded drilling pipes are stacked at a hydraulic fracturing site owned by EQT Corp. located atop the Marcellus shale rock formation in Washington Township, Penn., U.S., on Oct. 31, 2013.

Researchers raise questions about the integrity of drilling wells in the Marcellus Shale

Environmental scientists have detected chemical compounds used for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the drinking water of three Pennsylvania households, according to a new study.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University said samples of drinking water contained trace amounts of 2-Butoxyethanol, a compound used in drilling fluid as well as household paint and cosmetics, the New York Times reports. The contaminant was found in such microscopic concentrations that it posed no immediate health risk.

Researchers say the discovery raises questions about the integrity of drilling wells in the Marcellus Shale, a vast subterranean natural gas field in North America, and industry claims that wells sunk thousands of feet below aquifers did not require the same steel and concrete encasements as wells closer to the surface.

[NYT]

TIME White House

Obama Administration Unveils New Fracking Rules

Mody Torres (L) and Josh Anderson of Select Energy Services connect hoses between a pipeline and water tanks at a Hess fracking site near Williston, North Dakota Nov. 12, 2014.
Andrew Cullen — Reuters Mody Torres (L) and Josh Anderson of Select Energy Services connect hoses between a pipeline and water tanks at a Hess fracking site near Williston, North Dakota Nov. 12, 2014.

Tightens use of chemicals on federal land

The Obama Administration announced Friday the first major nationwide hydraulic fracturing safety rules since the technology sparked an energy boom in the U.S.

Under the rules, companies drilling on federal land must publicly disclose what chemicals they use in “fracking” — a mining technique by which rocks are fractured by pumping a liquid compound deep underground — within 30 days of operations. The regulations also tighten standards for collecting wastewater and keeping the groundwater protected.

The Interior Department said that meeting the new regulations would cost companies less than one-fourth of 1 percent of the estimated cost of drilling a well.

The new rules apply to the over 100,000 oil and gas wells on federal government and American Indian lands and exclude some major drilling areas with their own ordinances. Only around 11 percent of U.S. natural gas production and 5 percent of oil production is produced on public lands, according to Bloomberg.

The Republican-led Senate has already introduced a bill to stop the regulations from coming into force, arguing that states alone should have the right to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Some environmental groups also oppose the regulations, arguing they don’t go far enough. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) legislative rep, Madeleine Foote, said the proposal was a “missed opportunity.”

 

 

 

TIME energy

New York Residents Talk Secession in Regards to Big Fracking Upset

A woman holds an anti-fracking sign as a group of demonstrators gather for a rally for a Global Climate Treaty on Dec. 10, 2014 in New York City.
DON EMMERT—AFP/Getty Images A woman holds an anti-fracking sign as a group of demonstrators gather for a rally for a Global Climate Treaty on Dec. 10, 2014 in New York City.

The most affected communities lie along the east-west line between the Empire and Keystone states

One could argue America was conceived from intense frustration that ultimately led to separation. Fed up with what they perceived as excessive control by the Crown, colonists to the “New England,” in essence, seceded in 1776, and thus the United States was born.

Now, there is a renewed and growing secession conversation brewing in the New England region, this time fueled by a commodity: Natural gas. Infuriated by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s December decision to permanently instill a ban against hydraulic fracture stimulation, or fracking, residents in 15 communities in the Southern Tier of New York are discussing the possibility of redrawing the border between New York and Pennsylvania.

Most affected are communities that lie along the east-west line between the Empire and Keystone states. Dairy farms dot the landscape, and in Pennsylvania, where fracking is encouraged, farmers are building new barns, buying new equipment and communities are adding schools and hospitals. In contrast, only a few miles to the north, farms that have been in families for generations lie dilapidated. Equipment is old, and there are few signs of construction.

Read more: New England Growing More Dependent On Natural Gas

Karen Moreau is the Executive Director of the New York State Petroleum Council and is passionate about the plight of these residents. “He (Governor Cuomo) wiped out the hopes, the dreams, the opportunity for economic salvation for thousands and thousands of struggling farm families, rural communities and others who have stood by, civilly waiting, expecting the government to do the right thing, to do the honest thing, and instead this is what they were given,” she said.

Moreau characterizes the stark difference on either side of the state line as “East Berlin and West Berlin,” citing added burdens of excessive property taxes and some of the most expensive natural gas in the country. “For a 200 acre dairy farm with a modest home and buildings that aren’t so great, the property taxes are $20,000 a year,” she says. “Even though they have all this natural gas in the ground, they really don’t have any infrastructure, so their energy costs are among the highest in the nation as well,” Moreau added, saying it’s not unusual for families to burn wood to provide heat.

Cuomo instilled the permanent ban on December 17, 2014 following comments by acting health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker who said, “I consider the people of the state of New York as my patients. We cannot afford to make a mistake. The potential risks are too great, in fact they are not fully known.”

Read more: Big Oil Going On The Offensive

A recent Quinnipiac University poll indicated most New York voters agree with the Governor’s decision by a 55-25 percent margin.

In a double-blow to Southern Tier residents, on the same day Cuomo instilled the permanent fracking ban, the state also shot down two applications for casinos in the region.

Although acknowledged as a long shot, state legislator, Republican Tom Libous of Binghamton, mailed a survey to his constituents asking if they were interested in secession. Realigning state lines would require coordinated efforts from both state legislatures and the federal government. Meanwhile, these New Yorkers will continue to look across the border and will observe continued economic prosperity through the years, realizing the only thing separating them are a few very long miles.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

More from Oilprice.com:

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 3

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. What if a microbe could solve the fracking wastewater problem, all while generating additional clean energy?

By Michael Casey at CBS News

2. Thank your dog: A new paper credits domesticated wolves with giving humans the evolutionary advantage over Neanderthals 40,000 years ago.

By Robin McKie in the Guardian

3. With all their innovation, apps on tablets can’t give kids the experience of building with blocks.

By Eric Westervelt at National Public Radio

4. This device could revolutionize childbirth. It was created by a car mechanic.

By Ed Stocker in GlobalPost

5. The old models for statecraft don’t account for the power of networked communications. Welcome to Netpolitik.

By Charlie Firestone and Leshuo Dong in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME cities

The 5 U.S. Cities Bouncing Back Strongest From the Recession

Houston, Texas
Murat Taner—Getty Images Houston, Texas

Metro areas in the South and the West are flourishing

U.S. cities in the South and West are more likely to have recovered from the recession while metropolitan areas in the Midwest and Northeast have largely struggled, according to a new report.

The Brookings Institution report finds that Austin, Houston and Raleigh, N.C., have outpaced other U.S. cities in terms of GDP growth per capita and rising employment since 2007, with Fresno, Calif., and Dallas rounding out the top five.

(MORE: Oklahoma Shakes—Is Fracking to Blame?)

The report, released Thursday, tracks how cities around the world have fared since the recession. Globally, the main metropolitan drivers are found in developing countries, especially China and Turkey.

In the U.S., the cities with the strongest GDP growth and employment levels since the Great Recession are generally found in the south and west, largely due to the growth of the energy sector.

“Those places are the epicenter of what has been the shale energy boom that’s been occurring in the U.S.,” says Joseph Parilla, a Brookings research analyst and lead author of the Global MetroMonitor report.

(MORE: The Rise of Suburban Poverty in America)

Cities in Texas and Oklahoma have especially benefited from the expanded production in oil and gas thanks to an increase in fracking, a process that extracts natural gas from shale.

The cities that have seen the least progress are largely clustered in the Midwest and Northeast in areas that are historically industrial and manufacturing hubs. Most of those cities—like Kansas City, Mo., Allentown, Pa., and Dayton, Ohio—have only partially recovered or not recovered at all, according to Brookings.

As the U.S. continues to see good economic numbers, many of which were touted by President Obama in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, most cities are still struggling to rebound from the recession. More than half of U.S. metropolitan areas either have not recovered from 2007 GDP per capita levels or have not fully seen a rebound in employment.

TIME Environment

Study Links Ohio Earthquakes to Fracking

Ohio Oil Fracking
Ty Wright—Bloomberg/Getty Images A rig hand works the controls while changing out a drill pipe at a Knox Energy Inc. oil drilling site in Knox County, Ohio, U.S., on Dec. 8, 2014.

Fracking wells near fault lines induced the quakes

Fracking wells close to fault lines induced a series of earthquakes in Ohio, according to a new study that paints a clearer picture of the link between the controversial drilling practice and earth tremors.

The study, published this week in The Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, found that fracking, formally known as hydraulic fracturing, may have built up subterranean pressure and caused slippage in an existing fault that contributed to dozens of mild earthquakes in Poland Township, Ohio, in March. Two of the earthquakes were large enough to be felt, though they did not do any damage. The study was reported by the New York Times.

Wells further away from the fault line were not related to the tremors, according to the study.

“It appears you have to be quite close to the fault for fracking operations to trigger earthquakes,” Michael R. Brudzinski, a seismologist at Miami University in Ohio and the co-author of the study, told the Times. “Having that sort of information helps us to see that this stuff is pretty rare.”

The research adds to growing concern among geologists that fracking can cause or intensify earthquakes. In April, scientists said for the first time that the Ohio earthquakes were linked to the gas extraction process, prompting Ohio to issue strict permit conditions.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources told the Times that existing fracking wells were still in production but further fracking has been banned. New York State banned the drilling technique last week, citing concerns over water and air contamination.

[NYT]

TIME energy

New York Bans Fracking

After years of debate in the state over the controversial drilling technique

The administration of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the controversial drilling technique known as fracking will be banned in the state, citing concerns over risk of contamination to the state’s air and water.

“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said. The announcement comes after years of debate over the practice, during which New York has had a defacto fracking ban in place, the New York Times reports.

Fracking employs chemicals and underground explosions to release oil and gas trapped in shale deposits that are inaccessible by conventional drilling techniques. Some environmentalists contend that fracking contaminates groundwater and can contribute to seismic activity, and that increased drilling activity can contribute to air pollution and other environmental problems.

[NYT]

TIME Economy

#TheBrief: Why Gas Prices Are Falling

The reason you're paying less at the pump

You may have noticed a lower number on your gas station receipts. The average price of gas in the U.S. is now $2.55 per gallon, the lowest it’s been since 2009. We’re told to never question a good thing, but why are these prices falling?

Watch The Brief to find out why you’re spending less than usual at the pump.

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