Anti-fracking lobby seeks new moratorium, keeps legal powder dry

Anti-fracking lobby seeks new moratorium, keeps legal powder dry

22nd July 2014

Anti-fracking lobby group Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) and social rights group AfriForum hand delivered a letter to President Jacob Zuma this week calling on him to declare a fresh moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in South Africa, or face possible legal action.

TKAG CEO Jonathan Deal reported on Tuesday that the letter questioned government’s apparent willingness to proceed with the processing of exploration applications despite having failed to address several outstanding concerns that had been raised by fracking opponents over the past three-and-a-half years.

In his State of the Nation address on June 17, Zuma described shale energy as a “game changer” and said that the “the shale-gas option” would be pursued “within the framework of our good environmental laws”.

Subsequently, Shell’s Bonang Mohale urged government to accelerate the licensing process, warning that South Africa ran the risk of missing out on the shale-gas boom as it had with the commodity boom.

Untested estimates indicated that South Africa could have more than 300-trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the Karoo basin, which proponents believe should be exploited to help the country diversify its coal-heavy electricity mix and even, potentially, to produce transport fuels.

However, Deal said the alliance against fracking – which was led by TKAG and AfriForum, but also embraced civil society, labour and religious groups – felt there were at least five outstanding issues that had to be address before South Africa could consider proceeding.

The first, and most important, related to public consultation, which AfriForum’s head of environmental affairs Julius Kleynhans argued had been entirely inadequate to date.

However, the draft fracking regulations outlined in 2013 were also said to be “flawed”, with no indication yet given as to whether the final regulations would take account of public submissions – the alliance against fracking’s own submission ran to over 300 pages.

Thirdly, concerns lingered over the composition of the task team assembled by the Department of Mineral Resources to finalise the framework under which shale-gas exploration and development could proceed. Deal argued that a new task team should be assembled that included individuals who were more critical of fracking and its potential benefits.

Opponents also had serious misgivings about the quality of the environmental management plans that had been submitted by potential shale-gas miners. They also felt that the precautionary principle should remain in place until outstanding scientific questions were adequately answered.

There was a “golden opportunity”, Deal argued, for government to restart the consultation process, the length of the previous consultation should not be confused with a credible process.

Deal said he had been heartened by Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi’s indication that he was willing to engage with the TKAG. However, neither he nor Kleynhans had received a formal approach from the Minister.

The alliance, which signed off its letter to Zuma with the words “in good faith”, said it hoped to receive a positive response from government to its “non-litigious” overture within the coming 30 days.

Should no response emerge, however, preparations would be made to take “legal steps”, the first of which was likely to be triggered should government grant an exploration licence to any of the current applicants.

Kleynhans indicated that AfriForum already had the financial wherewithal to take the matter legal and that it was convinced that there would be others willing to join the alliance in what threatened to become an expensive and drawn out legal battle.

“Our letter presents government with a valuable opportunity to address fatal flaws in its approach to shale-gas mining without the need for enormously expensive and embarrassing litigation from the citizens of South Africa,” Deal said.

But he likened the current approach to agreeing to “get on a plane where we don’t even know if the pilot has a licence, or if the plane has been serviced”.

“This is not about bunny hugging and we wouldn’t have the effrontery to talk about stars and birds and bees and rabbits when this country needs energy and it needs employment,” Deal stressed, adding that the debate needed to centre on economics and the science.

Deal also embraced the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) recent opposition to fracking, which drew a wry smile from Kleynhans, who admitted that AfriForum, which is known for fighting for minority Afrikaner rights, was not currently on speaking terms with JuliusMalema’s party.

“[The EFF] have indicated that they are going against [fracking], but obviously they have their own political motives . . . if they can put a piece of paper in front of us, we will definitely read through it and see what they have to say.”

Deal was more enthusiastic about the EFF’s potential involvement saying: “I’m not a political animal at all and I’ve had to learn politics fairly quickly in the last three-and-a-half years. But one thing I would say for Julius Malema is that, if he has an opinion, he’s not scared to make it known and not scared to stand up for it – and I admire that in him”.

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter

From New York to Nkandla shale gas is a ‘game-changer’

This article first published July 15 in Daily Maverick – South Africa’s leading online publication


15 JULY 2014 07:58 (SOUTH AFRICA)

From New York to Nkandla, shale gas is indeed a game-changer

Shale gas has been hailed as a game changer worldwide, but many of the numbers being crunched are outdated – and the reality is a little more sobering. It’s worth picking up on US shale gas hype and bringing it down to earth in the Karoo.
Since 2011, there have been some incredible statements from oil and gas executives, but the uncontested winner must come from Chris Faulkner: “There is enough oil and gas underground (in America) to supply America for an almost endless amount of time.”

Oil industry mouthpiece, RIGZONE speculates on SA fracking

An online article July 8, by oil and gas industry mouthpiece RIGZONE proclaims “SOUTH AFRICA EDGES CLOSER TO KAROO SHALE GAS DEVELOPMENT” Peppered with inaccuracies, and drawing on phrases like ‘rolling blackouts in South Africa in May of this year’, the article regurgitates the industry speculation that we have heard in this country since January 2011. Here is the article. My reply to RIGZONE on their own online comment section may not be published, and is set out underneath the RIGZONE article.

A Rigzone nonsense
















I believe that the article is poorly researched, and as one would expect biased towards the oil and gas industry that supports your publication. As proof, I mention just one point that jumps out of the text. ‘300 000 to 700 000 jobs over 25 years. (485tcf)’ Anyone who has done their homework knows that South African scientists long ago reduced that figure from 485 to 40tcf – so any estimates based on 485 are irrelevant – much like the industry hype and speculation over Monterey. No Sir, those backing shale mining in SA may feel that it is edging closer, but actually the news on shale gas globally is not good and is building a strong body of evidence against SA moving ahead under the current circumstances. Jonathan Deal, CEO, Treasure Karoo Action Group, South Africa.

B Rigzone nonsense-1

WWF and SAFM host a debate on fracking. Will President Zuma tune in?

Decisive Debate

Chevron gas well explosion and fire in Pennsylvania

Posted: 02/11/2014 5:02 pm EST Updated: 02/11/2014 5:59 pm EST

By Elizabeth DaleyPITTSBURGH, Feb 11 (Reuters) – One person was injured and another missing after an explosion on Tuesday at a natural gas well in southwestern Pennsylvania owned by Chevron Corporation , a company spokesman said.

A fire at the site continued to burn on Tuesday afternoon after the blast at around 6:45 a.m. at Chevron Appalachia’s Lanco 7H well in Dunkard Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania around 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, near the West Virginia border.

Chevron did not immediately know the cause of the blast, company spokesman Kent Robertson said.

The company initiated emergency response procedures and called in assistance from Wild Well Control, an organization trained specifically to deal with natural gas explosions, he said.

One person was taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries, and rescuers continued to search for a person who was missing, a Greene County dispatcher said.

“Chevron’s primary concern at this point is to contain the fire and ensure the safety of its employees, contractors and the surrounding community,” Robertson said in an email.

About all those FRACKING jobs, South Africa …

Pa.’s gas drilling job figures raise questions

“We can’t guarantee that every one of those employees are working in the Marcellus Shale,” department spokeswoman Sara Goulet said. “We don’t have that ability to drill down to determine that.”

FILE – In this June 25, 2012 file photo, a crew works on a gas drilling rig at a well site for shale based natural gas in Zelienople, Pa. It sounds like a free-market success story: a new gas drilling boom driven by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which delivers a vast new source of cheap energy without the government subsidies that solar and wind power demand. But men who helped pioneer fracking recall a different story. From the shale fields of Texas and Wyoming to the Marcellus in the northeast, the U.S. Department of Energy contributed more than $100 million in direct federal research to help develop fracking, and Congress added $10 billion in tax breaks. Now, some of the biggest supporters of shale gas say the government should continue to back renewable energy research – for decades, if need be – to deliver future breakthroughs in that field. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) 

By MARC LEVY, Associated Press

POSTED: 11/11/13, 12:25 PM EST |

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — It might sound good as a campaign claim, especially if you’re trying to take credit for it: The Marcellus Shale natural gas industry supports more than 200,000 jobs, goes an online ad for Gov. Tom Corbett. Then there’s what Corbett said in his first re-election campaign speech: “The energy industry in Pennsylvania is now supporting the livelihoods of over 200,000 people and their families.”

The problem is, it’s an iffy claim for an energy sector that economists say is relatively small.

The statistic comes from a state Department of Labor and Industry report, whose authors don’t exactly make the same claim. It is the agency’s estimate of employment at Pennsylvania businesses in 36 different lines of work that have some sort of relationship to the exploration of the Marcellus Shale, the nation’s largest-known natural gas reservoir.

That number was about 232,000 at the end of March, an increase of roughly 31,000 over the four years that drilling has boomed in the Marcellus Shale.

Aside from the fact that many of those employees were here before the drilling boom, not every business or employee in that statistic is involved in Marcellus Shale-related work.

“We can’t guarantee that every one of those employees are working in the Marcellus Shale,” department spokeswoman Sara Goulet said. “We don’t have that ability to drill down to determine that.”

The flipside is the Labor and Industry Department report does not include out-of-state businesses — say, Ohio and West Virginia companies that send pipeline or drilling services crews to Pennsylvania — and it does not include railroads, law firms, hotels, quarries or certain other lines of business that have handled rising demand because of the drilling boom.

Patrick Henderson, a deputy chief of staff for Corbett who spearheads energy policy, said the department’s figure requires context, but he would not say it is necessarily inaccurate. Rather, the figure is conservative, Henderson said, because it does not take into account a ripple effect of money being spent in the state’s economy because of people whose work involves some sort of relationship with Marcellus Shale or people who benefit from lower gas prices and the royalties from the gas harvested beneath their land.

For instance, Henderson said, any tally should count the extra employees hired at a convenience store and gas station to accommodate the heavy patronage by drilling hands. In any case, the exact number is not as important as is the idea that a significant number of people base their livelihoods on the industry, and policymakers need to be mindful of that, Henderson said.

“You get to a certain number where people realize it’s a big enough deal that you have to pay attention to the public policy that affects it, and that’s the goal,” Henderson said. “Without question, the number of Pennsylvanians working in oil and gas is a big number.”

The Labor and Industry Department statistic counts six “core” industries that involve oil and gas extraction and pipelines. Over four years, those jobs grew by 17,414 to 28,155.

Then it counts 30 “ancillary” industries, including highway construction, metal making, laboratories, trucking, power plants and engineers. Over four years, those jobs grew by 13,352 to 203,814.

Tim Kelsey, a Penn State professor of agricultural economics and a co-director of the university’s Center for Economic and Community Development, said an academic economist’s very rough calculation of the job impact would be closer to multiplying by two the increase in core jobs — 17,414 — to get a figure of about 34,000 or 35,000. And that includes ripple effects, Kelsey said.

But a formal economic study to better determine the employment impact takes time and money, he said.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that the Marcellus Shale is having a positive employment, wage and income effect, particularly in the counties where it’s going on,” Kelsey said. “What is not clear exactly is how large those effects are.”

Pennsylvania AG files criminal charges – fracking


Central PA

Central PA

Attorney general files criminal charges against Marcellus gas drilling company

marcellus shale.jpg
A drilling rig used to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Washington County, Pa. (The Associated Press, file)

Donald Gilliland | dgilliland@pennlive.comBy Donald Gilliland | 

on September 10, 2013 at 5:30 PM, updated September 11, 2013 at 3:07 PM

Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Tuesday afternoon filed criminal charges against a Pennsylvania subsidiary of ExxonMobil for illegally discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater [emphasis added] from a Marcellus Shale gas well site in Penn Township, Lycoming County.

XTO Energy Inc., of Indiana, Pa., was charged after evidence and testimony was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the criminal charges be filed, according to a news release from Kane’s office.

XTO issued a news release shortly after Kane, indicating it would challenge the charges because they were “unwarranted and legally baseless because neither XTO nor any of its employees intentionally, recklessly or negligently discharged produced water on the site.”



According to the attorney general, the grand jury found that XTO hired a company to recycle wastewater at its Marquardt site in Lycoming County from Nov. 4, 2010, through Nov. 11, 2010.

After that one-week period, XTO directed the company to remove its processing equipment from the site and transport it to another XTO well site in West Virginia. However, XTO allegedly continued to transport and store gas well wastewater at the Marquardt site despite not having the proper equipment on site to safely store or process it. [emphasis added]

The illegal discharge of gas well wastewater was discovered [emphasis added] on Nov. 16, 2010, when an inspector with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection made an unannounced visit [emphasis added] to the Marquardt site, according to the attorney general.


According to the grand jury, during that visit the DEP inspector discovered that a rear discharge valve on a storage tank was opened and a drain plug removed, causing gas well wastewater to flow out of the storage tank onto the ground. There also was evidence of prior wastewater discharges from other storage tanks at the Marquardt site. [emphasis added]


The grand jury found that between Nov. 12, 2010, and Nov. 16, 2010, more than 93,000 gallons of wastewater were transported to and stored at the Marquardt site, of which approximately 57,000 gallons were unaccounted for [emphasis added] following the spill, according to the news release.


Kane said the toxic wastewater flowed into and polluted an unnamed tributary of Sugar Run. [emphasis added]  As a result of the spill, DEP required more than 3,000 tons of contaminated soil to be excavated and removed from the Marquardt site


XTO allegedly failed to place a spill containment system [emphasis added] under any of the storage tanks at the Marquardt site; failed to lock or otherwise secure any of the storage tanks on site; and failed to utilize any security measures to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing the Marquardt site.


XTO Energy Inc. is charged with five counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law and three counts of unlawful conduct under the Solid Waste Management Act.


XTO responded in its news release, saying, “The criminal charges filed by the Attorney General are unprecedented and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. [emphasis added] There was no intentional, reckless, or negligent misconduct by XTO. The incident did not result in significant or lasting environmental harm. Charging XTO under these circumstances could discourage good environmental practices, such as recycling. The action tells oil and gas operators that setting up infrastructure to recycle produced water exposes them to the risk of significant legal and financial penalties should a small release occur.”

The XTO news release said the company “has already agreed with federal authorities on reasonable civil penalties and preventative steps to avoid future accidents of this type. Without admission of liability, on July 18, 2013, a consent decree regarding the discharge was signed between XTO and the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Justice conducted a full investigation for more than a year and concluded that criminal charges were not warranted. An investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is ongoing.” [emphasis added]