Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Study on fracking-well spills highlights lax reporting requirements in some major oil and gas states

Hydraulic-fracturing wells caused 6,648 spills of oil, chemicals and wastewater from 2005-2014 in Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania, says a study published in Environmental Science and Technology. The study, by researchers from Duke University, Harvard University, Florida State University, Yale University, the University of Texas, the University of Central Arkansas, the University of Cincinnati, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Geological Survey, looked at 31,482 wells and found that 75 to 94 percent of spills occurred within the first three years of a well's life or when it was drilled.

"North Dakota had the highest rate of spills while Colorado companies reported just 11 spills per 1,000 wells annually," Nicholas Kusnetz reports for InsideClimate News. "But some or all of that difference may be due to the huge differences in what the states ask oil companies to report. North Dakota requires operators to report any spill of 42 gallons or more, while Colorado and New Mexico generally don't ask for anything smaller than 210 gallons. Texas, the nation's top oil-and-gas-producing state, wasn't even included in the study because detailed data was not easily accessible. The authors did not examine data from Oklahoma because the state had not digitized all of its information."

Researchers "found that more than half of the spills occurred while companies were storing fluids in tanks or pits or transporting them through flowlines," Kusnetz writes. "Many were repeat spills from the same wells." Kate Konschnik, a co-author of the study and director of the Harvard Environmental Policy Initiative, told Kusnetz, "It's quite scattershot the amount of information being collected, the form in which it's being collected and the way in which it's being shared with the public." (Colorado spills from tanks)

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