Entries in Natural Gas (3)


Are Arkansas' Natural Gas Injection Wells Causing Earthquakes?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(GUY, Ark.) -- Hundreds of small- and medium-scale earthquakes have been rattling the area around Guy, Arkansas, and residents say wastewater injection wells being drilled in their area are to blame.

"It gives new meaning to the term 'rock your world,'" said resident Johnny Passmore.  "There is no foundation.  You are just shaking and you can't go anywhere because it's shaking."

In February, shocks from a 4.7-magnitude earthquake near the town were felt as far away as Memphis, Tennessee, the biggest quake in the region in 35 years.

These earthquakes are the newest development in the raging national argument over the safety of drilling for natural gas.

Josh Fox, the director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, questioned the industry's claims of natural gas as a clean energy source.  His film is critical of a drilling method called hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as "fracking," where fluid is injected into rock, breaking it to release natural gas.

Just days after the 4.7-magnitude quake in February, state regulators pressured energy companies into voluntarily shutting down two injection wells closest to the fault line.  Chesapeake Energy, now owned by BHP Billiton, owned one of the wells at the time.

"We do not agree with the conclusions," said Chesapeake Energy spokesman Danny Games in a recent television interview.  "We believe there is a lot of natural seismicity in this area and there's a lot more sub-surface data, and science and facts that need to be brought to bear."

A public hearing is scheduled Tuesday for both sides to present their data and decide whether or not the injection wells should be re-opened.  There is a moratorium on building any new injection wells until this summer.

Since the two injection wells were shut down in March, the earthquakes have not completely stopped in Arkansas.  But Scott Ausbrooks, a geologist with the Arkansas Geological Survey and a lead detective on the case, said they have tapered off dramatically.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


One Year Later: West Virginia Miners' Families Seek Answers, Healing

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images(MONTCOAL, W.Va.) -- One year after an explosion ripped through the Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, W.Va., killing 29 men, survivors say they're still searching for answers amid what remains an overwhelming sense of loss.

"There just ain't no peace out there right now. There just isn't," said Charles Davis, 76, who lost his son Timmy, 51, and grandsons, Cory, 21, and Joshua, 27, in the accident.  "My boy, he was everything," he said, fighting back tears. "I can't look at the pictures. I can't say their names. The only thing I'd like to know is why it happened. I'm still waiting."

Federal and state investigators, initially hampered by lingering toxic gas, standing water and debris inside the blown-out mine, still have not released an official report on the cause of the explosion. But sources close to the investigation say a buildup of methane or natural gas in the mine shaft, ignited by a spark from a piece of mining machinery and fueled by combustible dust swirling in the air, was likely to blame.

The Upper Big Branch mine accident was the country's deadliest in more than 40 years.

Officials with Massey Energy, which owns the mine, have said an unexpected flood of gas seeping from an underground crack probably overwhelmed the mine's ventilation system just before the explosion.

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which enforces U.S. mine safety standards, however, has said Massey may have failed to follow the law. The company racked up more than 1,300 safety violations over the past five years, including 80 in the past month alone, MSHA records show. Many were deemed willful or gross negligence. And as recent as one month before the accident, records show inspectors cited the company for high levels of explosive dust, poor ventilation and flawed escape route plans at the Upper Big Branch facility.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pa. Governor Moves to Stop Natural Gas Drilling on State Land

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HARRISBURG, Pa.) -- Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell signed an executive order Tuesday that will protect the state's forests from any new natural gas development.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources recently evaluated the state forest system over a seven-month period and found that additional drilling could "endanger the environmental quality" of Pennsylvania's forests and "pose a risk to Pennsylvania's existing certification that it manages its forests in a sustainable manner."

"Drilling companies' rush to grab private lands across the state have left few areas untouched by this widespread industrial activity," Governor Rendell said.  "We need to protect our un-leased public lands from this rush because they are the most significant tracts of undisturbed forest remaining in the state.  The House led the way to protect these lands, but the Senate failed to do so.  That's why it's so clear we need this executive order."

Rendell also said that preservation of the state's forest system was important to the state's economy.  Pennsylvania tourism relies heavily on state forests for recreation, and the lumber industry "needs the assurance of knowing [state officials] are going to responsibly manages these resources to protect jobs in that industry," the governor said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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