Your Environment Update for August 27, 2015

  • The Salem Harbor Power Station, a coal-fired power plant near Salem, Massachusetts. The new Clean Power Plan would require coal-fired power plants to cut carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to stem climate change. Photo: Flickr user massmatt

August 27, 2015

Groups Sue Over Fracking Waste Rules

A coalition of environmental groups filed a legal notice this week, demanding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency update rules for fracking waste. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Integrity Project and others say the rules for dumping oil and gas waste are more than 25 years old and need revision.

The legal notice says lax regulation has led to numerous earthquakes in eastern Ohio, where frack waste is being pumped into underground wells. In Pennsylvania, the groups say an industrial pond holding fracking wastewater in Tioga County leaked pollutants like arsenic and strontium into groundwater and a nearby trout stream.

The coalition says it will file a lawsuit if the EPA doesn’t review its rules within 60 days.

Poll Shows Support for Reducing Carbon Emissions

So, should the federal government mandate reductions in pollution from coal-burning power plants? Well, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll, 67 percent of Pennsylvanians think so, expressing support for new EPA rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants.

“Pennsylvanians, who—you know, coal has put food on the tables of a lot of Pennsylvanians for hundreds of years—have turned quite green on this, by a margin of 2 to 1,” says Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll.

Malloy says an even bigger majority—72 percent—said they believe the EPA initiative is necessary to clean the air.

Voters were split, however, on whether the new rules will be too expensive. The Quinnipiac University poll surveyed 1085 Pennsylvania voters.

DEP Fines Gas Drillers Over Water Contamination

This week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued fines for three Marcellus Shale gas drillers for contaminating water supplies with methane.

Chesapeake Energy received the largest of the three fines. It was dinged $195,000 for problems at a Bradford County well in 2012. The DEP says faulty well casings there caused methane to bubble up in over a dozen places, including four private drinking water supplies.

XTO Energy and a Shell subsidiary were also fined for causing methane pollution in private water wells and local streams. The DEP says all impacted water supplies have been replaced by the companies and faulty wells repaired.

The DEP monitors methane because it can explode if it’s allowed to build up in enclosed spaces like water wells.